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Attorney General Mills and FTC take joint enforcement action against advertiser and telemarketer of supplements
February 6, 2018
Attorney General Mills and Federal Trade Commission take joint enforcement action against advertiser and telemarketer of supplements
Agency provided deceptive radio ads and telemarketing to Southern Maine-based ‘Direct Alternatives’ to promote weight-loss products.
AUGUSTA – Maine Attorney General Janet T. Mills today announced that the Federal Trade Commission and the Maine Attorney General’s Office have agreed to settle their case against Minnesota-based Marketing Architects, Inc., (“MAI”) for its role in promoting weight loss supplements “AF Plus” and “Final Trim.” Attorney General Mills and the FTC previously sued and obtained a judgment against Direct Alternatives, of Portland, Maine, for marketing these products. Marketing Architects created radio ads for these products and provided automated telemarketing services to Direct Alternatives to take orders from consumers responding to the ads.
Attorney General Mills and the FTC allege in a federal court complaint that the ads and Marketing Architects’ telemarketing system made false, misleading, or deceptive claims and that the company failed to fully disclose critical terms to consumers. The proposed settlement bars the company from making weight-loss claims about dietary supplements that are false. The company has also agreed to pay $2 million to the FTC and to the Maine Attorney General’s Office which may be used for restitution consumers who purchased these products.
“When consumers hear ads promising significant weight loss, or specific amounts of weight, they should check with their doctors first,” said Attorney General Janet T. Mills. “That is good practice for any dietary supplement. Even if the ad suggests that a listener must act quickly or risk missing the chance to purchase, don’t take the bait. Call your doctor instead. And if a company promises you can use a product ‘risk-free’ or as a ‘trial’, but then asks for your credit card, hang up the phone and research the product first on the Internet or by calling my office or the Better Business Bureau.”
The joint complaint alleges that ads created and disseminated by MAI falsely or deceptively claimed that users could lose 30 pounds or more and “experience maximum weight loss – pounds in days.” One telemarketing script 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!” The complaint alleges that ads stated that these claims were “proven” but in fact lacked scientific support. The complaint further alleges that MAI created fictitious users of the products and pitched ads deceptively as health news, announcements of studies, and public-service announcements. The complaint also alleges that MAI’s telemarketing system promised an ‘absolutely risk-free’ trial of the weight-loss products but did not adequately disclose that consumers actually faced the risk of being charged by being automatically enrolled in a monthly continuity shipment plan which they had to affirmatively cancel before an unspecified deadline.
Maine and the FTC filed the Complaint and the proposed Order in federal court in the District of Maine. The stipulated Order will have the force of law if and when approved and signed by a District Court judge upon reviewing the case.