FTC comes down on book marketer

By Clarisse Douaud

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Ftc, Federal trade commission

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has clamped down on the marketer
of a book for allegedly promising consumers an easy plan for losing
weight.

The government agency charged Kevin Trudeau with violating a court order and misrepresenting the contents of his book, The Weight Loss Cure 'They' Don't Want You to Know About​. The case is noteworthy because it highlights that the federal consumer authority's scope over the weight loss market in the US goes beyond dietary supplements and into any marketing for quick fix solutions. According to FTC, Trudeau's advertisements claim the book's weight loss plan is not only easy to carry out, but also can be done at home - allowing consumers to eat what they want. Trudeau appears in three widely disseminated infomercials to sell the book. He describes the weight-loss plan using statements including: "I can eat whatever I want now, anything and as much as I want any time I want. No restrictions now. And the weight's not coming back. You don't gain the weight back." ​FTC has been trying to get the message out to consumers not to be lured in by the too-good-to-be-true promises from marketers of weight loss-related products. "Testimonials from individuals are not a substitute for science,"​ FTC chair Deborah Platt Majoras said at a press conference in January. "And that's what Americans need to understand."​ The actual contents of Trudeau's book, FTC maintains, reveal a complex and grueling plan requiring a severe diet, daily injections of a prescription drug, and lifelong dietary restrictions. FTC also claims consumers cannot easily purchase the drug in question. The present contempt action was filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and is not the first run-in with the federal agency for Trudeau. In 2004, he was banned from using infomercials to sell products, services or programs and was ordered to cough up $2mn. FTC charged that Trudeau falsely advertised his calcium product could cure cancer, among other things, and that analgesic product Biotape could permanently cure or relieve severe pain. Though this ban contained a small window allowing Trudeau to use infomercials for publications - including books - FTC says it specifically required he not misrepresent their contents. FTC previously sued Trudeau in 1998 for claims surrounding products marketed via infomercials for hair growth, memory, and weight loss. The agency is trying to spread awareness so as to make consumers less susceptible to false advertising. "You won't find weight loss in a bottle of pills that claims it has the latest scientific breakthrough or miracle ingredient,"​ said Platt Majoras. "Paying for fad science is a good way to lose cash, not pounds."​ FTC rang in the New Year announcing settlements with dietary supplement manufacturers amounting to $25mn. The marketers of Xenadrine EFX, One A Day Weight Smart, Cortaslim and TrimSpa were ordered to change their ad claims and pay the fines for both civil penalties and consumer redress. The FTC claimed that the marketing material linked to the weight loss supplements caused consumers to postpone making the tougher choices and discouraged people from taking effective steps to losing weight.

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