The marketers of an herbal tea and a diet patch have been ordered to pay nearly $2 million to the Federal Trade Commission for making deceptive claims that both products would let users to lose weight quickly without diet or exercise.
For nearly two years before According to the FTC complaint, Bronson Partners, LLC and its officer, Martin Howard, marketed Chinese Diet Tea, telling consumers they could lose as much as six pounds a week by drinking one cup of the green tea after each meal to "neutralize the absorption of fattening foods." Advertising in national magazines such as USA Weekend and Clipper Magazine, the marketers charged $24.95 plus shipping and handling for a month's supply.
Michele of Decatur, GA tells ConsumerAffairs.com that she tried Chinese Diet Tea largely because it was endorsed by Oprah "and it didn't work. I truly believe these products are just being used because of the high profile celebrities like Oprah push their products."
Also during this time, the marketers sold the Bio-Slim Patch, a diet patch that contained extracts from the fucus, garcinia, and guarana plants. The marketers instructed consumers to wear the patches 24 hours a day for at least three months, claiming that "repulsive, excess ugly fatty tissue will disappear at a spectacular rate due to the combination and synergy of these three natural ingredients."
The marketers advertised the patch in national magazines and in a company catalog, and consumers paid $24.95 plus shipping and handling for a month's supply.
ConsumerAffairs.com has received a variety of complaints regarding the patch. Among them:
• Linda of Dublin, OH: "This company doesn't provide any 'free' colon cleanse or a sample that is just to be $5.95 S&H. so don't fall for their false advertising. I did not get anything free but was charged $83.95 plus foreign transaction fees by my credit card for the sample. They refuse to offer a refund and I am being charged-end of story. I am going to complain to my credit card company to dispute.
• Sharyn of Sugar Hill, GA: "Found Internet offer of a free trial, all I was supposed to pay was shipping and handling and now I'm billed $83.95 extra, I didn't receive any other product, I refuse to pay it. I am notifying my credit card to remove this debt. I feel that this charge is fraudulent.
• Louisa of Weaverville, NC: "The products did not work and my money has not been refunded, even though I returned everything as instructed within the proper time frame.
However, the company did respond to the complaint lodged by Louisa: "She claims that she returned the product in the proper manner, and her money was not refunded to her account. This is not accurate. Louisa had paid two of the three payments on her Kit when she returned it, and that money, $59.90 (two payments of $29.95) was refunded...one month BEFORE Louisa made her comment on your site."
In addition to ordering the nearly $2 million payment, citing "obvious and widespread" violations of the FTC Act, Judge Stefan R. Underhill of the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut granted the FTC's request to prohibit the defendants from deceptively selling or advertising any weight-loss products.
"Future violations of a similar nature would surely result in financial harm to consumers, and possible physical harm if consumers engage in risky weight-loss techniques in reliance on (the) defendants' misleading representations," the judge wrote in his ruling and order. He also ordered the defendants to help the FTC identify consumer victims who lost money on the products, so that restitution can be made.
The FTC filed its complaint against Bronson Partners, LLC and Martin Howard as part of the"Big Fat Lie" law enforcement sweep in November 2004. The sweep targeted marketers of bogus weight-loss products, such as pills, powders, gels, green teas, and diet patches.
In July 2008, the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut granted the FTC's request for summary judgment against Howard and Bronson Partners, LLC, also doing business as New England Diet Center and Bronson Day Spa.