Entries in FTC (6)


Feds Issue Warning on HCG Weight Loss Products

FDA(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission issued warning letters Tuesday to seven companies that market over-the-counter homeopathic HCG weight loss products, calling for these companies to take “corrective action.”

There are currently no HCG products sold online or in stores that are approved for weight loss. Still, alternative versions of the hormone -- found as drops, sprays, and pills -- are marketed by many companies as a weight loss supplement.

It’s unclear how much HCG is contained in these products or whether the products truly contained HCG, even if labeled as such.

“Whether they contain it or not, they are illegal and unapproved drugs,” Elizabeth Miller, acting director of Division of Non Prescription Products and Health Fraud at Food and Drug Administration said at Tuesday’s press conference.

HCG diet product labels typically state that the product should be taken with a very low calorie diet. But there is no study that shows that taking any product containing HCG has additional benefit to weight loss besides being on a low caloric diet, Miller said at Tuesday’s press conference.

“Almost more than any other [market], the weight loss industry is fad driven,” Richard Cleland, assistant director of the division of advertising practices at the Federal Trade Commission said at Tuesday’s press conference. “Also, unfortunately it is fraud driven.”  

Human chorionic gonadotrpin (HCG), otherwise known as a fertility hormone, is produced in pregnant women’s placentas and is also found in a pregnant women’s urine.  The hormone is FDA-approved as a prescription injection drug to treat some cases of infertility.

Weaker studies have suggested that HCG can also absorb excessive fat tissue.  

It’s not clear how many people are on the diet or buy these products, but Miller and Cleland said that heavy marketing on the Internet indicates there is a large consumer market.

About 8 million people a year fall victim to consumer fraud on the Internet, Cleland said.

Companies that have been issued a warning letter have 15 days to respond to the FDA and the FTC with steps they have taken to correct their violation.

According to the FDA website, “firms that do not correct the violations may face enforcement action, possible legal penalties, or criminal prosecution.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


FTC Quashes Acne-Curing Smartphone Apps

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Smartphone apps can do a lot of things but cure acne?  Come on, there's no app for that!

Unfortunately, thousands of acne sufferers, desperate for any kind of relief, have been suckered into believing that two smartphone apps could provide the answer to their skin woes.

One app promised acne removal through blue and red light treatments.  AcneApp, which sold for $1.99 on iTunes, was supposedly developed by a British dermatologist.  The other app, AcnePwner, sold for 99 cents on Android Marketplace.  The tag line was “Kill ACNE with this simple, yet powerful tool!”

These claims caught the attention of the Federal Trade Commission, which quickly acted to put a stop to the false propaganda.  

After nearly 15,000 downloads, the FTC got the marketers to "stop making bogus claims." It's the first time the FTC has taken action against a phony health claim by mobile apps.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Fake News Sites Make Deceptive Claims About Acai Berry Weight Loss, FTC Alleges

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Sophisticated online advertisements disguised as legitimate news sites deceive consumers into believing they can quickly drop unrealistic amounts of weight with acai berry pills and supplements, say federal regulators who by Wednesday had won federal injunctions against seven of 10 targeted operations.

After fielding complaints from consumers who paid up to $100 for acai diet products and companion products that were said to promote ultra-fast weight loss when taken together, the Federal Trade Commission on April 13 asked judges in six states to stop companies and those behind the fake news sites from making deceptive dieting claims, said Steven Wernikoff, a staff attorney with the FTC's regional office in Chicago. The states were Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Washington, Michigan and Georgia. In addition to the federal crackdown, the Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office also sued a Chicago-area acai berry diet product marketer for allegedly scamming consumers.

With the injunctions, the judges ordered the marketers to stop making the claims "for extravagant weight loss" and stop using fake news sites to do so. The judges also froze the companies' assets, Wernikoff said. However, the judges' rulings didn't prohibit continued sales of the products, Wernikoff said. Asked if the companies had responded to the recent orders, Wernikoff said, "We believe the defendants are complying."

The FTC criticized a marketing tactic that steers a consumer searching the Web for "acai" to ads that include statements such as "Acai Berry EXPOSED: Health Reporter Discovers Shocking Truth." Clicking on the ads brings the consumers to fake news sites featuring photos of fictional reporters and their first-person testimonials about how well the products helped them lose extra pounds. The online accounts are laced with such details as how quickly the products arrived and how often the tester took them, along with week-by-week results. The sites also show additional posts about the products.

The Web page stories are accompanied by sound nutrition and exercise tips that add to their apparent legitimacy. From these pages, consumers are encouraged to "click here to get a free trial" of the merchants products. Some of the offers are advertised as time-limited, with dates that they expire.

The FTC also created and posted a video warning consumers about the potential risks of accepting the free trials. Back in 2008, the Better Business Bureau warned consumers that 14-day free trials for products containing acai, sometimes called a "super food," also can be misleading, after fielding thousands of complaints about online acai product sales.

Last summer, the FTC also won a court order telling companies to stop saying the products had been endorsed by celebrities Oprah Winfrey and Rachael Ray. In one of the newly filed cases, the company operating the allegedly fake news site also "operated a blog that suggested an endorsement from Rachael Ray," he said.

"The FTC has ongoing efforts to aggressively challenge false health claims," Wernikoff said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Dannon Settles with Feds over Activia & DanActive Claims

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The world’s largest yogurt maker has agreed to settle U.S. government charges that it exaggerated the health benefits of two popular products.
The Federal Trade Commission reports: “The Dannon Company, Inc. has agreed to settle [FTC] charges of deceptive advertising and drop claims that allegedly exaggerated the health benefits of its Activia yogurt and DanActive dairy drink. These two popular Dannon products contain beneficial bacteria known as probiotics.  Dannon will stop claiming that one daily serving of Activia relieves irregularity, and that DanActive helps people avoid catching colds or the flu.”
Under the agreement, Dannon will be forbidden from claiming its yogurt can prevent illness or “relieve temporary irregularity or help with slow intestinal transit time.”
One of Dannon’s best-known, and most-parodied, marketing claims was widely televised in an ad campaign that featured Jamie Lee Curtis sitting on a couch boasting about how Activia helped expedite her bowel movements. Last year, Dannon settled a $35 million class action lawsuit related to these claims.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


FTC Asked to Investigate Faulty Online Health Marketing

Photo Courtesy -- Getty Images(WASHINGTON) – The Federal Trade Commission has been called on to investigate potentially illegal marketing practices that target a growing number of Americans seeking medical information and treatment online.

In a complaint filed with the FTC, the Center for Digital Democracy, U.S. PIRG, Consumer Watchdog and the World Privacy Forum called on the commission to protect consumers from insecurely providing personal data when looking for health information and services on the Internet.

The filing has asked that the FDA, which has been pressured to expand the rights of health marketers online, await a study and report from the FTC before taking any action.

At issue are the types of online targeting techniques and methods used by advertisers and what type of personal data is being collected through those methods.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


POM Wonderful Reacts to FTC Complaint; Lawsuit Developing

Photo Courtesy -- Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- A Federal Trade Commission complaint charges POM Wonderful LLC with "making false and unsubstantiated claims that their products will prevent or treat heart disease, prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction."  David Vladeck, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection said, “When a company touts scientific research in its advertising, the research must squarely support the claims made.  Contrary to POM Wonderful’s advertising, the available scientific information does not prove that POM Juice or POMx effectively treats or prevents these illnesses.”  On Monday, POM Wonderful declined to answer questions, however a spokesperson released a statement on behalf the the popular juice company.  In the statement, POM accuses the FTC of "wasting taxpayer resources to persecute the pomegranate."  The statement also indicates that POM has initiated a lawsuit to preserves its "first amendment rights to communicate the promising results of [their] extensive scientific research program on pomegranates."  POM Wonderful Pomegranate Juice is available at grocery stores nationwide.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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