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Attorney General Mills and Federal Trade Commission take joint enforcement action against Maine weight loss pill dealer
February 5, 2016
AUGUSTA – Maine Attorney General Janet T. Mills and the Federal Trade Commission have acted to halt the sale and marketing of weight-loss pills “AF Plus” and “Final Trim” and other dietary supplements sold by “Direct Alternatives” and other companies owned by Anthony and Staci Dill of Scarborough. The federal court complaint details deceptive practices by the Dills’ companies in advertising weight-loss products and charging consumers for unauthorized products and services, in violation of state and federal law. The Dills agreed to a settlement with the State of Maine and the FTC, which has now been signed by a federal judge.
“This company preyed on the vulnerability of consumers who seek a legitimate weight loss program,” said Attorney General Mills. “The conduct here is not limited to making false claims about their products; it also includes charging consumers hundreds of dollars in automatic monthly orders and making it very difficult for customers to cancel orders or get their money back. The Maine Attorney General’s Office is grateful to the FTC for the resources and assistance it brought to this case.”
One radio ad for the company’s products claimed: “With the metabolism-boosting benefits of AF Plus, you can keep eating your favorite foods and STILL lose pounds and inches – in fact we guarantee it!” Other ads claimed consumers would “experience maximum weight loss – pounds in days.” Ads stated that these claims were “proven” but in fact they lacked scientific support.
“The Dills’ companies told a blizzard of lies,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “They sold worthless weight-loss supplements, lied about their supposed ‘free trial’ offers, took people’s money with unauthorized auto-renewal plans, and made it nearly impossible to return their bogus products.”
The company promised consumers a 30-day “risk-free trial” but in fact, the company made it difficult to cancel orders and obtain a refund. The company then billed consumers for unauthorized charges, automatically enrolling them in a monthly “continuity plan,” billing many consumers $79.90 a month, and refusing to refund money once consumers found the weight-loss pills were ineffective.
When consumers called to order AF Plus and Final Trim, they were also deceived by “upsells” which repeatedly promised consumers $80 in Walmart or Target gift cards for enrolling in trial memberships in two “buying clubs.” However, consumers did not receive the full value of the gift cards and instead confronted a complicated process to receive even a fraction of the value of the gift cards.
The settlement permanently enjoins the Dills from engaging in practices in the future and requires them to forfeit some of their ill-gotten gains. This case is the first joint enforcement action that the State of Maine has brought with the Federal Trade Commission for violations of state and federal law. On January 15, 2016 the FTC Commissioners voted in favor of filing the complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine.
Attorney General Mills thanked Assistant Attorney General Brendan O’Neil for his efforts in this case and the FTC for their cooperation and assistance.