Two Women’s Shapewear Marketers Settle FTC Charges of Deceptive Weight Loss and Slimming Claims

What’s the News?

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently settled with two separate marketers of women’s undergarments over charges that the companies made false and misleading claims about the weight loss and fat burning benefits of caffeine-infused shapewear products. Norm Thompson Outfitters, Inc. and Wacoal America, Inc. each sold women’s shapewear infused with caffeine and other ingredients. The companies claimed that the shapewear could substantially slim a wearer’s thighs and hips and break down cellulite.

The Settlement

According to the FTC, Norm Thompson Outfitters claimed that the caffeine contained in its shapewear products would “metabolize and dehydrate fat cells,” increase blood circulation, and help consumers “take off inches” from their waistlines. Similarly, Wacoal America claimed that its iPant Anti-Cellulite Shapewear would eliminate or reduce cellulite and “provide[] a permanent anti-cellulite effect” after only 28 days of use. Wacoal America further stated that “test results show[ed] most women reported improved appearance, a reduction in thigh measurement and that their clothes felt less tight.” Promotional materials for Norm Thompson Outfitters also claimed that the garments were “[r]ecommended by Dr. Oz for fighting cellulite.”

In its complaints, the FTC alleges that the companies lacked competent and reliable scientific evidence to support any claim that the shapewear products could lead to sustained weight loss, fat loss, or cellulite reduction. Both companies are also alleged to have relied on significantly flawed tests and to have exaggerated the results of the studies they relied upon. The FTC also determined that television personality and physician, Dr. Oz, never recommended Norm Thompson Outfitters’ products.

Under the proposed consent orders, Norm Thompson Outfitters and Wacoal America have agreed to stop making claims that shapewear containing any drug or cosmetic ingredient causes substantial weight loss, fat loss, or reduction in body size. Additionally, both companies are prohibited from making claims that any drug or cosmetic ingredient reduces or destroys cellulite or body fat, unless these claims are not misleading and can be properly substantiated by reliable scientific evidence. The proposed consent orders also require Norm Thompson Outfitters and Wacoal America to pay $230,000 and $1.3 million, respectively, to refund consumers who bought the caffeinated shapewear.

Why is This Significant?

The FTC has repeatedly signaled its intention to closely scrutinize health-related advertising claims, and particularly claims that a product or service will help consumers lose weight or improve their fitness. Apparel-related claims are not immune to such scrutiny from the FTC and the complaints against Norm Thompson Outfitters and Wacoal America add to a growing list of apparel companies that have been targeted for allegedly deceptive or misleading weight loss claims. Before companies refer to “test results” or make claims that certain health benefits are “proven,” they must ensure that such claims are supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence. It is also important that any claims that rely upon such scientific testing accurately represent the tests’ findings and not misrepresent or exaggerate the evidence.