FTC cracks down on deceptive advertising with marketers of fad weight-loss products

January 14, 2014

On Jan. 7, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced an initiative to stop national marketers from using deceptive advertising claims for fad weight-loss products. FTC took aim at four national marketers of products ranging from food additives and skin creams to dietary supplements, resulting in a $34 million penalty.

The initiative is part of the FTC’s “ongoing effort to stop misleading claims for products promoting easy weight loss and slimmer bodies.” One marketer claimed consumers could ‘sprinkle, eat, and lose weight’ with their product. However, the FTC charged marketers deceived consumers with unfounded weight-loss claims and misleading endorsements. In another case involving the marketer of the hormone hCG, the FTC barred deceptive future claims that liquid homeopathic hCG drops would ‘cause consumers to rapidly lose substantial weight.’

In regards to weight control services and health and diet products, BBB received more than 4,600 complaints nationwide last year. Common complaints included advertising issues related to the results touted by the product marketer or service, along with complaints about products causing an adverse reaction, products never delivered as promised and refund and exchange issues

Before you invest in diet plans or products, BBB advises consumers to do the following:

·         Consult your doctor or healthcare provider. Certain supplements and ingredients can be potentially dangerous when mixed with medications or if someone is pregnant, nursing or has a pre-existing health condition. Always consult with your doctor first.

         Research the supplement. The Food and Drug Administration is a great resource for researching supplements and their ingredients. You can also go to bbb.org to check out the BBB Business Review of any retailer or manufacturer that makes the supplement you’re interested in purchasing. Additional information on product claims, the safety and effectiveness of the product, as well as any reports of adverse effects can be acquired directly from the product manufacturer or distributor.

·         Be cautious of too-good-to-be-true claims. If a product is touting exaggerated claims or instant fixes, this is a red flag.

·         Be extra diligent when searching products on the Web. When searching for information about supplements online, use respected websites such as those run by the government, university research or reputable medical databases rather than just doing a quick search through a search engine. 

To check the reliability of a company and find trustworthy businesses, visit BBB.


For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping consumers find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2012, consumers turned to BBB 124 million times for Business Reviews on more than 4.5 million companies and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org