Gut Check–Sensa & the FTC

by Bill McClellan on Jan 8, 2014 3:54:00 PM Advocacy

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced an update to its guidance for publishers and broadcasters on how to spot false weight-loss claims when screening ads for publication. The campaign dubbed “Gut Check: A Reference Guide for Media on Spotting False Weight-Loss Claims” updates the FTC’s 2003 guidance “Red Flag Bogus Weight-Loss Claims”. 

The FTC will be sending out letters to publishers and broadcasters asking them to increase screening for “gut check” claims. Their guidance describes seven weight loss claims that the FTC believe can’t be true and should prompt a “gut check” – a second look to make sure publishers are not running false advertisements. During the 2003 FTC weight loss crackdown ERA members reported significant friction gaining ad clearance on cable networks. As such, ERA encourages industry participants to revisit and review weight loss advertising claims with regulatory counsel to ensure compliance. In addition, please report any advertising clearance related issues to bmcclellan@retailing.org so that we can proactively address any concerns as they arise.

In conjunction with this “Gut Check” campaign the FTC also announced settlements with Sensa and 3 other diet product companies in an enforcement sting operation labeled “Operation Failed Resolution”. The Sensa settlement of $46.5 million on $364 million in sales was one of the largest in the agency’s recent history. The other companies involved in the sweep were L’Occitane (slimming skin cream), HCG Diet Direct (human weight loss hormone) and LeanSpa (acai berry and colon cleanse supplement). All four marketers are prohibited from making any deceptive claims in the future about any weight-loss product without backing up the claims with two clinical trials, a precedent the FTC has begun to push with previous health and fitness enforcement actions. 

The Sensa weight loss campaign questioned by the FTC was also the subject of review by ERSP the industry’s self-regulatory program. First in 2009, Sensa was reviewed by the National Advertising Division of the Advertising Self-Regulatory Council (ASRC) at which time it discontinued some claims. Again in 2013 the campaign was the subject of an anonymous ERSP challenge. At that time ERSP was forced to close its inquiry due to pending litigation as dictated by the program’s policies and procedures. 

ERA stands ready to assist with both clearance or compliance issues as they arise. We strongly encourage you to contact us atbmcclellan@retailing.org with any issues you might have gaining network clearance for your weight loss advertising. Early warning will allow us to proactively address issues as they arise. Similarly, we strongly encourage you to revisit your compliance efforts with regulatory counsel. If you do not have counsel we can assist you with the ERA vendor listings or in applicable cases discussions with ERSP personnel. 

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced an update to its guidance for publishers and broadcasters on how to spot false weight-loss claims when screening ads for publication. The campaign dubbed “Gut Check: A Reference Guide for Media on Spotting False Weight-Loss Claims” updates the FTC’s 2003 guidance “Red Flag Bogus Weight-Loss Claims”. 

The FTC will be sending out letters to publishers and broadcasters asking them to increase screening for “gut check” claims. Their guidance describes seven weight loss claims that the FTC believe can’t be true and should prompt a “gut check” – a second look to make sure publishers are not running false advertisements. During the 2003 FTC weight loss crackdown ERA members reported significant friction gaining ad clearance on cable networks. As such, ERA encourages industry participants to revisit and review weight loss advertising claims with regulatory counsel to ensure compliance. In addition, please report any advertising clearance related issues to bmcclellan@retailing.org so that we can proactively address any concerns as they arise.

In conjunction with this “Gut Check” campaign the FTC also announced settlements with Sensa and 3 other diet product companies in an enforcement sting operation labeled “Operation Failed Resolution”. The Sensa settlement of $46.5 million on $364 million in sales was one of the largest in the agency’s recent history. The other companies involved in the sweep were L’Occitane (slimming skin cream), HCG Diet Direct (human weight loss hormone) and LeanSpa (acai berry and colon cleanse supplement). All four marketers are prohibited from making any deceptive claims in the future about any weight-loss product without backing up the claims with two clinical trials, a precedent the FTC has begun to push with previous health and fitness enforcement actions. 

The Sensa weight loss campaign questioned by the FTC was also the subject of review by ERSP the industry’s self-regulatory program. First in 2009, Sensa was reviewed by the National Advertising Division of the Advertising Self-Regulatory Council (ASRC) at which time it discontinued some claims. Again in 2013 the campaign was the subject of an anonymous ERSP challenge. At that time ERSP was forced to close its inquiry due to pending litigation as dictated by the program’s policies and procedures. 

ERA stands ready to assist with both clearance or compliance issues as they arise. We strongly encourage you to contact us atbmcclellan@retailing.org with any issues you might have gaining network clearance for your weight loss advertising. Early warning will allow us to proactively address issues as they arise. Similarly, we strongly encourage you to revisit your compliance efforts with regulatory counsel. If you do not have counsel we can assist you with the ERA vendor listings or in applicable cases discussions with ERSP personnel. 

Bill McClellan's blog
Get a2bFilfillment's FREE Ultimate Guide to Fulfillment e-Book
 
Subscribe for tips on how to grow your direct response marketing business!
Subscribe Now!

Follow Us

New Call-to-action

Editorial Disclaimer

The statements, opinions, and advertisements expressed on the ERA Blog and other online entities owned by the Electronic Retailing Association are those of individual authors and companies and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Electronic Retailing Association.