FTC continues cracking down on weight loss scams

American consumers love their weight loss products. Whether it's pills or powders or machines, if it is billed as making weight loss easier, they're buying.

Because of how vulnerable consumers are to such pitches, the Federal Trade Commission has embraced the mission of being the nation's diet product police and enforcing advertising and marketing laws. On Wednesday and Thursday, the FTC announced the resolution of two unrelated diet product cases -- both based on the idea that the companies had no evidence to support their weight-loss claims.

The first case involved the powder Sensa, which used a vigorous marketing campaign to convince consumers that sprinkling some powder on their food would make them more full and therefore cause them to eat less. The FTC filed a complaint earlier this year that accused the company of having no science on its side.

As a result, $26 million in refunds are being sent to Sensa users.

The latest case involves homeopathic drops that contain the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG). The FTC said diet companies have long falsely claimed HCG stimulate rapid weight loss.

The marketers of HCG Platinum drops settled charges that they, too, had no science behind their product and deceived consumers. The company resolved the charges filed by the FTC by agreeing to pay $1 million.

The drops were sold at stores including GNC, Rite Aid, and Walgreens. Charges against another HCG marketer were filed earlier this year.

"Fad weight-loss products like HCG drops come and go, but consumers shouldn't be fooled by their empty promises," Jessica Rich, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection said in a statement. "The foundation of successful weight loss is to eat a healthy diet and to increase physical activity."

The FTC warns that consumers should exercise skepticism when evaluating weight-loss products and the claims made to sell them.

But, if history is a guide, more consumers will buy more of these products and the FTC will bring more of these cases.

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    Mitch Lipka is an award-winning consumer columnist. He was in charge of consumer news for AOL's personal finance site and was a senior editor at Consumer Reports. He was also a reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, among other publications.