On September 29, 2014, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) announced settlements with two separate marketers of women’s undergarments who claim that use of their products results in weight loss. Specifically, both Norm Thompson Outfitters, Inc. and Wacoal America, Inc. have entered into settlement agreements with the FTC, requiring the companies to collectively pay some $1.5 million in consumer refunds. In the FTC’s announcement, Jessica Rich, the FTC’s Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection, stated “Caffeine-infused shapewear is the latest ‘weight loss’ brew concocted by marketers. If someone says you can lose weight by wearing the clothes they are selling, steer clear.” According to the FTC, both marketing companies made claims about the health benefits of their products which were unsupported by any credible studies.
Norm Thompson Outfitters’ Shapewear
The FTC alleged that Norm Thompson Outfitters marketed its “Lytess” women’s undergarments, which incorporate “microcapsules containing caffeine and other ingredients,” as capable of slimming a woman’s body and reducing cellulite. In its advertising, the company claimed that simply wearing its garments could result in a woman losing 2” off her hips and thighs in a month’s time. The FTC alleged that the company represented, either expressly or by implication, that scientific tests had proven that its garments substantially reduce a wearer’s hip and thigh size. However, the “studies” relied on by Norm Thompson Outfitters to support its advertising claims were “unblinded and uncontrolled, and . . . contained significant methodological flaws.”
As part of its settlement with the FTC, Norm Thompson Outfitters has agreed to discontinue the publication of advertising that contains claims that any of its clothing contains drugs or cosmetics that will cause weight loss. In addition, Norm Thompson Outfitters will pay $230,000.00 into a fund which the FTC will use to refund consumers.
Wacoal America’s Shapewear
The FTC also alleged that Wacoal America falsely advertised that its “iPants” garments were capable of stimulating weight loss. Wacoal America purportedly sold bike shorts, tights and leggings containing caffeine and other ingredients that allegedly stimulate weight loss. Wacoal America advertised that wearing its iPants 8 hours a day, 7 days a week for 28 days would stimulate weight loss. However, according to the FTC, Wacoal America either relied on non-existent studies, or exaggerated the results of unblind and uncontrolled studies in making its claims.
As a result of its settlement with the FTC, Wacoal America will pay $1,300,000.00 into a fund which the FTC will use to refund consumers. Wacoal America is also prohibited from marketing any “shapewear” clothing in the future that contains health benefit claims.
The FTC has been aggressively targeting advertisers’ health-related marketing claims. (See recent FTCSettlements). These settlements underscore the fact that marketers which tout the health benefits of their products must ensure that any and all advertising claims are supported by credible and reliable clinical studies.