Weight-loss companies charged with false advertising

Sensa's advertising claimed  it is clinically proven to help people lose an average of 30 pounds without dieting or exercise.

Story highlights

  • FTC says it has settled with Sensa, LeanSpa
  • FTC announces charges against L'Occitane, HCG Diet Direct
  • Companies made unsubstantiated claims about their products, FTC says
  • Sensa: Settlement includes "no admission of wrongful conduct by the company"
That "miracle" weight-loss product you've seen on TV may not live up to the hype.
The Federal Trade Commission has charged four companies with deceptive advertising related to their weight loss products. "Operation Failed Resolution," as the FTC calls it, is an effort by the federal agency to crack down on companies' misleading claims about products that allegedly help consumers slim down.
"Resolutions to lose weight are easy to make but hard to keep," Jessica Rich, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. "And the chances of being successful just by sprinkling something on your food, rubbing cream on your thighs or using a supplement are slim to none. The science just isn't there."
Only three weight-loss drugs are currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration for long-term use by certain adults: Belviq, Qsymia and Orlistat (sold over-the-counter as Alli).
The FTC has reached a settlement with Sensa, Inc. and a partial settlement with LeanSpa, LLC., according to an FTC press release. The release also announced the charges filed against L'Occitane and HCG Diet Direct.
Users sprinkle Sensa on their food to allegedly reduce hunger. It contains maltodextrin, tricalcium phosphate and silica, as well as natural and artificial flavors.
Sensa's advertising claimed the product is clinically proven to help people lose an average of 30 pounds in six months without dieting or exercise.
"Simply sprinkle Sensa on, eat all the foods you love and watch the pounds come off," one commercial promised. "It's that easy."
A one-month supply of Sensa is $59.00 (plus shipping and handling). Profit from the sales of Sensa in the United States between 2008 and 2012 totaled nearly $364 million, according to court documents.
The FTC complaint named Sensa Products LLC, Sensa Inc., Sensa CEO Adam Goldberg and Sensa creator Dr. Alan Hirsch. All were charged with making unsubstantiated claims.
"SENSA® made a business decision to settle with the FTC so it could focus on the core of its business: its customers," the company said in response on its website. "The settlement includes no admission of wrongful conduct by the company... The company has agreed to make changes to its advertising claims but otherwise will continue business as usual."
The FTC shut down LeanSpa leader Boris Mizhen's weight-loss companies in December 2011, claiming they were using fake news websites to promote acai berry and colon cleansing products. The FTC said consumers were being ripped off by paying up to $79.99 in shipping and handling charges for a "free trial."
In a statement, LeanSpa said that it "regrets that it was forced by heavy-handed government tactics and financial circumstances, including an unwarranted freeze of the personal assets of LeanSpa principal Boris Mizhen and his wife (who wasn't even involved in the business and has been accused of no wrongdoing), to enter into this settlement. LeanSpa never should have been named in this lawsuit and has been ruined by it.
"LeanSpa was an excellent company with first rank scientific advisors and an excellent, clinically tested weight loss product. It did not mislead consumers in its product claims or billing practices, and was itself a victim of deceptive and fraudulent conduct by its marketing partners. The settlement is a pragmatic compromise which admits no wrongdoing by LeanSpa and Mr. Mizhen and spares them expensive, protracted litigation. Could they have had their day in court, they are confident they and their actions would have been wholly vindicated."
The company's website, LeanSpa.com, appeared to be down Wednesday.
L'Occitane sells beauty products and fragr