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If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, according to the Federal Trade Commission, which busted an exercise device maker for deceiving consumers about the effectiveness of its product.
In television infomercials than ran at least 10,000 times between March 2009 and May 2010, the makers of the Ab Circle Pro claimed that a three-minute workout on the device was equal to performing 100 sit-ups. However, the company is now recanting those claims and has agreed to provide up to $25 million in refunds to consumers who purchased the device.
In the infomercial, pitchwoman Jennifer Nicole Lee compared the Ab Circle Pro to a gym workout, saying, “You can either do 30 minutes of abs and cardio or just three minutes a day. The choice is yours.” The infomercial also featured testimonials from other individuals claiming they had lost as much as 60 pounds using the device.
In addition to being sold via the infomercial, the Ab Circle Pro also was marketed online, in stores, in one- and two-minute television commercials and in print advertisements. Consumers who purchased the device through the infomercial paid between $200 and $250, while the price for those buying from retailers varied more widely, according to the FTC.
The FTC’s complaint names as defendants Fitness Brands Inc., Fitness Brands International Inc., and the two individuals who control them, Michael Casey and David Brodess; Direct Holdings Americas Inc. and Direct Entertainment Media Group Inc.; infomercial producer Tara Borakos and two companies she controls, Tara Productions Inc. and New U Inc.; and Jennifer Nicole Lee and two companies she controls, JNL Inc. and JNL Worldwide Inc. The complaint also names Reader’s Digest Association Inc. as a relief defendant, alleging that the company received proceeds of the deceptive advertising from its subsidiaries, Direct Holdings Americas and Direct Entertainment Media Group.
“The FTC reminds marketers that they should think twice before promising a silver-bullet solution to a health problem—whether it involves losing weight or curing cancer," said David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, in a statement. “Weight loss is hard work, and telling consumers otherwise is deceptive.”
As any true Simpsons fan knows, “Duffman says a lot of things.” One wonders, though, what he’d say about two Colombian businessmen’s dispute with 20th Century Fox over their efforts to produce a version of Homer Simpson’s beverage of choice, particularly as they now suggest their brew is actually named DuH, not Duff.