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Posted June 17, 2004

FTC Challenges Deceptive Weight Loss Claims for Supplement Targeted at Hispanics

On June 17, 2004, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced a new law enforcement action challenging false advertising for the 1-2-3 Diet Kit, a purported weight loss product. This action is part of an ongoing and comprehensive campaign to identify and halt fraud targeting Spanish-speaking consumers.

“In our continuing effort to maintain a strong enforcement presence in areas affecting the Hispanic community,” said Timothy J. Muris, Chairman of the FTC, “the cases announced today show that we are getting results for Hispanic consumers. Scam artists that target Hispanics should know that the Spanish language is no longer a safe haven.”

The FTC filed a complaint and stipulated final order against Kamarfu Enterprises, Inc., a Miami-based company that markets dietary supplements, and its owner, Maritza Fuentes. The defendants nationally advertised that their “1-2-3 Diet Kit” – a trio of dietary supplements – helps users lose weight.

The FTC’s complaint alleges that the defendants falsely claimed that the 1-2-3-Diet Kit:

causes permanent weight loss;

causes substantial weight loss in a short time (e.g., 10 to 12 pounds per month or 36 pounds in two months); and

causes substantial weight loss by blocking the absorption of dietary fat.

The complaint also alleges that the defendants made unsubstantiated claims that the 1-2-3 Diet Kit causes weight loss by suppressing appetite.

According to the FTC complaint, the “1-2-3 Diet Kit” contains three dietary supplements: “Step 1” Diet Formula, with chromium picolinate, L-carnitine, Citrimax (“HCA”), citrus aurantium extract, and other ingredients; “Step 2” Diet Plus Formula with Super Citrimax (or Fiber Formula with psylium husk, guar gum, oat bran, apple pectin, and other ingredients); and “Step 3” Spirulina Plus Formula. A one-month supply of the product sold for $129 and $143.99.

The defendants marketed their products nationwide through Spanish language ads in Hispanic magazines, such as Prevention en Español and Vanidades; in local newspapers such as El Nuevo Herald; on local radio; in a TV infomercial; and via the Internet. Defendants also advertised in English language newspapers, such as The Miami Herald.

The stipulated final order, entered by the court on June 2, 2004, resolves the complaint’s allegations and prohibits the defendants from making claims that the 1-2-3 Diet Kit or similar products cause permanent or substantial weight loss. The stipulated final order requires that claims about the benefits, performance, efficacy, safety, or side effects of any health-related product, service, or program must be true and substantiated by scientific evidence; and prohibits the defendants from making misrepresentations about tests, studies, or research.

The stipulated final order requires the defendants to pay $30,000 in consumer redress, and contains a $4.3 million “avalanche clause,” which would make the entire amount due immediately if the defendants misrepresented their financial condition. Finally, the settlement contains various recordkeeping requirements to assist the FTC in monitoring the defendants’ compliance. (The complaint and proposed stipulated final order were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, in Miami, on May 28, 2004. The court entered the stipulated final order on June 2, 2004.)