The Federal Trade Commission has charged QVC, Inc., the countrys largest home shopping channel, with violating an earlier FTC order by making false or unsubstantiated claims. The suit seeks civil penalties and consumer refunds.
The charges involve For Women Only and Lite Bites weight-loss products, Bee-Alive royal jelly dietary supplements and a purported cellulite treatment, Lipofactor Cellulite Target Lotion.
QVC, a multi-billion dollar company based in West Chester, Pennsylvania, sells a wide variety of consumer products through live, 24-hour television programming and through its Web site, www.qvc.com.
QVCs claims for these products are not only unsubstantiated, but for some, scientifically impossible, said Howard Beales, Director of the FTCs Bureau of Consumer Protection. No pill or drink can cause anyone to lose 125 pounds. QVC didnt keep its promise to use sound science and solid evidence to back up the claims it makes for the health products it sells.
In 2000, QVC settled FTC allegations that the company made unsubstantiated claims that Cold-Eeze zinc lozenges prevented colds and alleviated allergy symptoms. The resulting FTC consent order requires QVC to have competent and reliable scientific evidence substantiating any claim that a dietary supplement can or will cure, treat, or prevent any disease, or have any effect on the structure or function of the human body.
According to the latest complaint, QVC sold the weight loss, cellulite treatment and royal jelly products through live broadcasts in which a product representative talked with the QVC host about the purported benefits of the featured product. The spokespersons frequently described how well the product had worked for them, as well as others.
The programs also featured on-air conversations with consumers who called in and often provided personal testimonials about the products. Throughout the program, the QVC host and product representative urged consumers to buy the products by calling a toll-free number displayed on the screen.
The complaint alleges that QVC violated the 2000 FTC order by making false claims that For Women Only Zero Fat pills prevent absorption of dietary fat. The complaint also alleges that QVC violated the FTC Order by making unsubstantiated advertising claims that:
- For Women Only weight control products cause substantial weight loss, for example, 50, 60, 100 pounds or more, and enable users to maintain their weight loss for a substantial period of time;
- For Women Only Zero Fat pills (with chitosan, herbs, and other ingredients) prevent fat absorption;
- For Women Only Zero Carb pills (with chromium, vanadium, glucosol, gymena sylvestre leaf, and other ingredients) prevent sugar and carbohydrates from being stored as fat;
- Lite Bites products (including Fat Fighting Bars and Fat Fighting System Shakes, containing chromium picolinate, garcinia cambogia, L-carnitine, herbs, vitamins, fiber, and other ingredients) enable users to lose substantial weight, including, for example, 52, 80, 110, 125 pounds or more, and enable users to maintain their weight loss for a substantial period of time; and
- Bee-Alive dietary supplements containing royal jelly (a substance secreted from the salivary glands of nurse bees and fed to newly laid larvae) significantly reduce fatigue in users with chronic or severe fatigue; and significantly increase energy, strength, or stamina in users who recently have had surgery or suffer from various illnesses or conditions, such as fibromyalgia, Lupus, and Epstein Barr virus.
Violations of FTC orders carry a penalty of up to $11,000 per violation.