The Federal Trade Commission wants media companies to voluntarily screen out bogus weight loss ads, but the agency’s chief isn’t ruling out legal action against cable networks, broadcast stations and newspapers that continue airing promotions containing unsubstantiated claims.
"We’ll deal with that situation if it happens," FTC chairman Timothy Muris said Tuesday as he unveiled screening guidelines for the outlets that run the ads.
Muris said he’s confident that the desire to do the right thing and the fear of unpaid bills by advertisers that go bankrupt from lawsuits will be motivation enough that enforcement efforts won’t have to be targeted at media outlets. Muris noted that one radio group-which an FTC staffer identified as Infinity-was hung out to dry for $10 million in unpaid bills when fraudulent advertisers went under.
According to the guidance, media outlets should reject ads making any of the following claims: loss of two pounds or more a week for a month or more without dieting or exercise, substantial weight loss no matter how much the consumer eats, permanent weight loss, blocks absorption of fat or calories, enable consumers to safely lose more than three pounds per week for more than four weeks, substantial weight loss for all users, substantial weight loss by wearing it on the body or rubbing it into the skin.
NAB and NCTA officials say they will distribute the guidance to member stations, cable systems and networks.