FTC CHARGES IN FOUR CASES:

Sensa Products, LLC (“Sensa”)

Settlement:

  • The FTC brought charges against Sensa, its parent company and two individuals for deceptive advertising (the “defendants”).   
  • The company advertised that its food additive, Sensa, makes people feel full faster, causing them to eat less and lose weight without dieting or altering their exercise regime.
  • Sensa advertised these benefits without the support of competent and reliable scientific evidence.
  • Specifically, a physician who was part owner of Sensa wrote a book about the product and provided expert endorsements that were not supported by scientific evidence. 
  • Defendants cited the doctor’s studies as clinical proof that one could lose a great deal of weight without diet or exercise.
  • In addition, the FTC charged defendants with failing to disclose that certain consumers were paid for their endorsements of Sensa, either $1,000 or $5,000, including trips to Los Angeles.

Settlement:

  • Under the terms of the settlement, the Sensa defendants were required to pay $26.5 million.
  • Defendants are also prohibited from making weight-loss claims concerning dietary supplements, foods or drugs, without two adequate and well-controlled human clinical studies supporting those claims. 
  • They are also barred from making any other health-related claim without the support of competent and reliable scientific tests, analyses, research or studies.
  • The defendants may not misrepresent any scientific evidence and they must disclose any material connections with product endorsers, as well as with anyone conducting or participating in a study of a product or program.

L’Occitane, Inc. (“L’Occitane”)

  • According to the FTC, L’Occitane falsely advertised that its skin creams have body slimming capabilities, without the necessary clinical support.
  • An ad for the cream, “Almond Beautiful Shape,” suggests that it could “trim 1.3 inches in just 4 weeks” and that it was a “cellulite fighter.”
  • Advertisements for a second product, “Almond Shaping Delight,” stated that it has “clinically proven slimming effectiveness,” and will “visibly refine and reshape the silhouette, to re-sculpt and tone the body contours.”
  • In addition to these promises, the promotional materials indicated that both products could deliver a “noticeably slimmer, firmer you . . . (in just 4 weeks!).”

Settlement:

  • The proposed settlement prohibits the company from asserting that any product applied to the skin causes substantial weight or fat loss or a substantial reduction in body size. 
  • The company may not claim that any drug or cosmetic causes weight or fat loss unless the claim is supported by two adequate and well-controlled human clinical studies.
  • Similarly, the company may not assert that a drug or cosmetic reduces or eliminates cellulite or affects body fat or weight without  competent and reliable scientific evidence that supports these claims.
  • The company is banned from misrepresenting the results of any test, study, research or that the benefits of a product are scientifically proven.

HCG Diet Direct (“HCG”)

  • HCG and its director marketed liquid homeopathic HCG-brand drops by falsely promising that they would cause consumers to rapidly lose a great deal of weight.
  • Specifically, the FTC alleged that defendants mislabeled drugs under the FDA Act and made weight-loss claims that are not substantiated by competent and reliable scientific evidence, thereby violating the FTC Act.

Settlement:

  • The HCG defendants agreed to enter into a settlement that would bar use of these deceptive claims in the future. 
  • The order imposes a $3.2 million judgment, representing all sales of HCG Diet Direct Drops (which was suspended due to the defendants’ inability to pay). 

LeanSpa, LLC (“LeanSpa”)

  • The FTC charged the principal of LeanSpa (and his three companies) with: 1) using fake news websites to promote acai berry and colon cleanse weight-loss products; 2) making deceptive weight-loss claims and; 3) telling consumers that they could receive free trials of the products by paying the nominal cost of shipping and handling.
  • Defendants are charged with violating Sections 5 and 12 of the FTC Act, the Electronic Funds Transfer Act and Regulation E.

Settlement:

  • The parties agreed to a settlement requiring defendants to surrender cash, real estate and personal property totaling approximately $7 million. 
  • The proposed settlement bans defendants from billing consumers for products or services by automatically charging them on a recurring basis unless consumers opt out. 
  • Defendants are also prohibited from misrepresenting or failing to disclose facts about the products that involve costs, charges, terms for refunds, endorsements and/or trial supplies. 
  • Defendants must have at least two human clinical trials to support any weight-loss claims that they make about the products they sell, as well as competent and reliable scientific evidence for any other health-related claims.

TAKE AWAY:

  • The FTC and state agencies are closely evaluating the advertising programs of companies selling weight-loss and other beauty products.
  • In a related entry, we discuss the FTC’s Updated Guidance for Media Outlets on Spotting False Weight-Loss Claims in Advertising.