FTC Urges Media on Weight-Loss Claims

Continuing its efforts to gain media cooperation in its fight against deceptive weight-loss claims, the Federal Trade Commission yesterday began an education campaign aimed at direct response advertising outlets.

As part of the campaign, the FTC issued a media reference guide, “Red Flag: Bogus Weight Loss Claims,” to assist media in screening ads for weight-loss programs and supplements that make false claims.

In 2002, the FTC released a study showing that more than half of all ads for such products contain questionable claims and 40 percent contain at least one claim that almost certainly is an outright falsehood.

The FTC urged media outlets to screen weight-loss ads and reject those that contain deceitful claims. Though the FTC has asked for similar help from the media in the past, it has stopped short of declaring that it will pursue legal action against outlets that run ads containing misrepresentations.

The Red Flag guide is available at ftc.gov. It lists seven common false claims made for weight-loss products and ways to avoid them.

In a 35-page report issued along with the reference guide, the FTC detailed studies conducted by media and scientific panels on weight-loss ads, work that began at a November 2002 FTC workshop.

The report stated that the FTC would work with public and private media entities to educate consumers and the industry and develop industry self-regulation but would monitor weight-loss advertising and consider other solutions, including enforcement actions, if such efforts did not bring the desired results

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