With the new year upon us, many Americans will resolve to lose extra pounds, but the Better Business Bureau is warning consumers that the number of complaints against weight-loss services has increased by more than 50 percent since 2004.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than a third (34 percent) of U.S. adults aged 20 and older are obese. And a survey conducted by the Federal Trade Commission found an estimated 4.8 million Americans were taken in by dozens of weight-loss schemes that involved purchasing bogus pills, powders, patches, creams and other products, all of which added up to make fat-fighting fraud one of the most common consumer scams.
Losing weight consistently ranks as one of the top New Year’s resolutions and many people will be looking for fast, easy fixes.
The following are a few examples of pitches that the BBB has found to have empty promises and unscrupulous business practices:
Fraudulent Clinical Trials -- The BBB has received complaints on one company advertising on the Internet, noting that people who are interested in shedding pounds should “enroll” in their program, pay $144 up front, and then take a special new weight loss pill every day for two years. For their trouble, the company promises to refund the $144 after the first month and compensate consumers $319.73 each month. Complainants allege that they paid the required $144, received pills, and never heard from the company again.
Weight-Loss Tea -- Another company hawks a 100 percent “iron-clad” refund for their weight-loss tea. But dozens of consumers say when seeking a refund, company reps provided vague answers, told them to use the products for 4-6 weeks, and questioned whether they were dieting and exercising. Consumers allege that the company is merely using a stall tactic to get them to go past the 60-day mark so the company doesn’t have to honor its refund policy.
Hypnosis -- Yet another company promises “QUIT SMOKING & LOSE WEIGHT in one brief HYPNOSIS SESSION” and offers a 100 percent money back 10-year guarantee if the hypnosis doesn’t work. Until confronted by BBB, the company attempted to instill trust in consumers by falsely claiming in online and print advertising that they were “the only organization of our kind endorsed by the Better Business Bureau.” Complainants report paying more than $250 for the hypnosis seminar and a set of CDs, and allege that the hypnosis is ineffective and that the company doesn’t honor its refund policy.
Fat-Dissolving Injections -- Finally, more than 350 complaints came pouring in on a company that administers fat-dissolving micro-injections for upward of $10,000. The procedure is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration and complainants allege the injections were ineffective and caused extensive swelling and pain. Reports to the BBB also reveal improper billing practices and difficulty obtaining refunds. The St. Louis-based company went out of business suddenly citing “economic conditions.” Many other companies across the country, however, currently offer similar procedures.
Kelvin Collins is president/CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Central Georgia & the CSRA, Inc. serving 41 counties in central Georgia and the central Savannah River area (CSRA). This tips column is provided through the local BBB and the Council of Better Business Bureaus. Questions or complaints about a specific company or charity should be referred directly to the BBB at Phone: (800) 763-4222, website: www.bbb.org or e-mail: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.