Ab-Belt Marketers Pony $5M to Settle Charges

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United Fitness America and its partner companies agreed to pay $5 million to settle a complaint charging them with false advertising in infomercials for electronic "ab-belts," the Federal Trade Commission said.

Electronic muscle stimulation belts, once common on the DRTV circuit, came under scrutiny in May 2002 when the FTC questioned claims that the EMS devices firmed abdominal muscles without exercise. United Fitness of America, Ventura, CA, along with eBrands Commerce Group and Tristart Products, marketed the Fast Abs product.

According to the FTC, the companies claimed that use of the device for 10 minutes was equivalent to 600 sit-ups. They made further misstatements about the safety of the devices for all users and about refund practices and warranty policies, the FTC said.

Along with the payment, the defendants agreed to a ban from further misrepresentations in advertising claims.

The FTC also has filed complaints against Electronic Products Distribution, San Diego, maker of the AbEnergizer belt, and Hudson Berkley Corp., Las Vegas, maker of the AbTronic.

On July 1, a federal judge in U.S. District Court of Nevada ruled in favor of the FTC in the AbTronic case, holding the maker of the product liable for $83 million in damages and requiring them to turn over all assets to the FTC.

The AbEnergizer case remains pending, the FTC said.

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