FTC Flexes Muscle on Ab Circle Pro29 Aug, 2012 By: Doug McPherson
(UPDATED AUG. 30)
WASHINGTON – Even though many thousands bought the Ab Circle Pro exercise tool, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) didn’t buy it. More specifically, the FTC didn’t buy the ad hype. And that will cost the marketers up to $25 million in refunds for claiming that three minutes a day can melt away unwanted fat. It’s all part of a settlement with the FTC, which filed deceptive advertising charges against the ab-exercise marketers.
The marketers have agreed to settlements that force them to refund between $15 million and $25 million in sales, depending on the number of consumers that make requests.
Ab Circle Pro spots featured Jennifer Nicole Lee losing 80 pounds after having two children and then launching a career as a fitness model. The infomercial had Lee saying: “You can either do 30 minutes of abs and cardio or just three minutes a day. The choice is yours.”
Lee and the two companies she controls cannot misrepresent that the Ab Circle Pro, any substantially similar device, or any exercise equipment, food, drug, or device contributed to her weight loss. She also cannot endorse any exercise equipment, food, drug, or device unless the endorsement reflects her honest opinion or experience.
The infomercials promoting the product aired more than 10,000 times from March 2009 to May 2010, and the Ab Circle Pro was also marketed online, in stores, on TV commercials and in print ads. The device sold for between $200 and $250.
The FTC says the action is part of its ongoing efforts to stop over-hyped health claims. In a statement from the FTC, David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said, “The FTC reminds marketers that they should think twice before promising a silver-bullet solution to a health problem – whether it involves losing weight or curing cancer. Weight loss is hard work, and telling consumers otherwise is deceptive.”
Those named in the complaint include infomercial producer Tara Borakos and her companies Tara Productions Inc. and New U Inc.; and Jennifer Nicole Lee and her companies JNL Inc. and JNL Worldwide Inc.
Fitness Brands Inc., Fitness Brands International Inc., and Michael Casey and David Brodess, who control those companies, were also named as defendants, as well as Direct Holdings Americas Inc. and Direct Entertainment Media Group Inc., which are subsidiaries of Reader’s Digest Association Inc.
Reader’s Digest isn’t accused of wrongdoing and didn’t acknowledge any under the settlement. But in 2007 it acquired Direct Holdings Americas and Direct Entertainment Media Group – the former Time Inc. book division that also markets Time-Life books, CDs and DVDs. That ultimately put Reader’s Digest on the hook for $13.8 million to $23.8 million of the announced settlement.
To read the full settlement, click here: http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2012/08/abcirclepro.shtm
This story was updated on August 30 due to an error in the initial piece regarding restrictions placed on Jennifer Nicole Lee in the settlement. Lee is not "barred" from representing Ab Circle Pro or other fitness products. The correct language from the FTC is now included in this updated version. Response regrets the error. — Ed.