Confessions of a Quackbuster

This blog deals with healthcare consumer protection, and is therefore about quackery, healthfraud, chiropractic, and other forms of so-Called "Alternative" Medicine (sCAM).

Monday, November 21, 2005

Feds crack down on bogus weight loss products

Feds crack down on bogus weight loss products News Staff

We have all seen the ads for products that promise weight loss without diet or exercise. They're on late night infomercials, in newspapers and on the Internet. They all have one thing in common: they are too good to be true.

Now the federal Competition Bureau is cracking down on these companies.

The Bureau's Andrea Rosen says the problem of so-called health products making bogus claims is a big one, and one that's growing, she says, "because so many people are looking for miracle cures" for weight problems.

Rosen says Health Canada and the Competition Bureau have looked at over 700 cases related to this type of fraud, including one called the AbTronic and products like diet patches that claim they promise to melt off the pounds.

In the case of the AbTronic, the Competition Bureau stepped in and fined the manufacturer $75,000 for claiming the belt, which used electronic stimulation to purportedly develop abdominal muscles, would result in weight loss and improved muscle tone.

The distributor agreed shortly after to stop selling the products.

Rosen says the Bureau can step in when advertising laws are broken.

"As you know, the competition act has provisions against misleading advertising, including claims that are not supported by adequate and proper tests and that's what this is all about," Rosen told Canada AM.

"In order to make claims, you have to have adequate and proper tests, and in the cases of the Ab Energizer and the diet patch, the companies didn't have those kinds of tests available. So we asked them to take down the claims that they were making."

Rosen notes that with the volume of bogus health products being sold over the Internet and from small classified ads, much of the onus of responsibility still falls on the consumer.

"Consumers should do their homework -- buyer beware -- ask and get for the documentation behind a claim.

Rosen says that in order to educate consumers, the Competition Bureau has teamed up with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to create a bogus website of their own to educate consumers on the typical signs of diet fraud.

The webpage, known as "Fat Foe", is a teaser and looks like many similar sites out on the Web trying to sell bogus diet products. The site appears to advertise a new product that guarantees fast, permanent weight loss of up to 10 pounds per week, with no diet or exercise necessary to lose.

"The site appears to be legitimate, and when consumers land on the site and try to buy the product, they learn that the product doesn't work."

When would-be consumers begin clicking through the site, they are greeted with a message that reads: "The ad to which you responded is a fake, posted by the Federal Trade Commission and the Competition Bureau of Canada to warn consumers about diet rip-offs."

The site then goes through Fat Foe's weight loss claims and explains why each of them is bogus.

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