The Federal Trade Commission announced Friday a unanimous opinion and order holding respondents Telebrands Corp., TV Savings LLC and their principal, Ajit Khubani, liable for disseminating unsubstantiated and false advertising for the Ab Force.
The Ab Force is a belt-like device that uses electronic stimulation to cause involuntary contraction of the muscles of the abdominal wall. The respondents reaped $19 million from sales of the Ab Force, despite their admission that the product did not produce results, according to the FTC.
“This is a case about firm abs and phony ads,” the FTC said in its opinion. “It illustrates how false and unsubstantiated claims can be communicated indirectly but with utter clarity — to the detriment of consumers and in violation of the laws this commission enforces.”
Based on its analysis of the Ab Force ads, the FTC concluded that the ads “clearly convey” the claims alleged in the administrative complaint. The FTC also determined that other evidence, including a copy test and expert testimony, confirmed the commission's analysis.
The complaint, filed Sept. 30, 2003, alleged that from December 2001 through at least April 2002, the respondents marketed the Ab Force on television, radio, the Internet and in print, claiming that it: 1) causes loss of weight, inches or fat; 2) creates well-defined abdominal muscles; and 3) is an effective alternative to conventional exercise.
The complaint charged that the claims were unsubstantiated and constituted an unfair or deceptive act or practice and false advertising in violation of sections 5 and 12 of the FTC Act.
The FTC's order requires the respondents to cease making any of the false and unsubstantiated statements made in the Ab Force ads, bars them from making similar claims in promoting or marketing the Ab Force or any similar device in the future, and requires that any claims they do make for the Ab Force or any other such device be substantiated by competent, reliable evidence.