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FTC Launches 'Operation Big Fat Lie'


Updated February 15, 2014

November 9, 2004

Today, the Federal Trade Commission launched “Operation Big Fat Lie,” a nation-wide law enforcement sweep against six companies making false weight-loss claims in national advertisements.

Operation Big Fat Lie is the latest in the Commission’s efforts to: stop deceptive advertising and provide refunds to consumers harmed by unscrupulous weight-loss advertisers; encourage media outlets not to carry advertisements containing bogus weight-loss claims; and educate consumers to be on their guard against companies promising miraculous weight loss without diet or exercise.

Complaints in each of the six cases announced today allege that defendants used at least one of the seven bogus weight-loss claims that are part of the FTC’s “Red Flag” education campaign announced in December 2003. That ongoing Red Flag campaign provides guidance to assist media outlets in voluntarily screening out weight-loss ads that contain claims that are too good to be true.

“False and misleading advertisements are about as credible as a note from the Tooth Fairy,” said Federal Trade Commission Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras.

“As part of our ‘no tolerance’ policy, we are announcing six new cases against advertisers using bogus weight loss claims. By also working with media outlets to reject false ads and educating consumers to make informed choices, the FTC hopes to keep this national obesity epidemic from getting worse.”

The cases announced today challenge ads containing false Red Flag claims for a variety of products, including pills, powders, green tea, topical gels, and diet patches. The FTC alleges in each case that the weight-loss claims are false and that the defendants did not have adequate substantiation for the claims they made. The challenged ads ran in nationally-known publications such as: Cosmopolitan; Woman’s Own; Complete Woman; USA Weekend [...as well as] Spanish-language publications.

In each of these cases, the Commission is seeking to stop the bogus ads and to secure redress for consumers. In addition to the cases announced today, the Commission has filed lawsuits against seven other companies since April 2004 for making similarly false Red Flag weight-loss claims.

The FTC has most recently filed complaints against the following six companies:

  • Selfworx.com LLC
  • Femina, Inc.
  • CHK Trading Co., Inc.
  • Natural Products
  • New England Diet Center
  • AVS Marketing, Inc.

FTC’s “Red Flag” Media Education Campaign

These cases follow up on the FTC’s December 2003 announcement of its Red Flag initiative to encourage the media to adopt standards that would screen out weight-loss advertisements that contain false claims. Preliminary results of this effort are promising.

“Through our monitoring, we have seen a decrease in the frequency of false weight loss claims in the media,” said Chairman Majoras.

“This tells us that many in the publishing and broadcasting industries are doing the right thing and stepping up their efforts to reject ads like the ones we targeted today. That is good for consumers, good for the media, and good for honest advertisers.”

This article is comprised of content provided by the Federal Trade Commission in a press release.

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