Diet Advertisers Cough Up $1M

A pair of companies that have been advertising their dietary supplements in radio spots, TV spots, infomercials, on TV program guides, online and in print have agreed to settle deceptive ad complaints with the Federal Trade Commission, including paying almost $1 million in fines.

As is the case with such settlements, Pinnacle Marketing (also doing business as Health Remedies, Acadia Skin Care, Atlantic Skin Care, Atlantic Skin Care Products, and Pinnacle Marketing Group, LLC) and VisionTel Communications don't have to admit any guilt, but they do have to stop making unsubstantiated claims about their weight-loss aids and sexual dysfunction remedies.

A Maine U.S. district court has to approve the settlement, but when it almost certainly does, the companies will be permanently barred from making any similar unsubstantiated claims about their products, which include Pinnacle's "Ultra Carb" weight-loss system containing "white kidney bean extract and chromium picolinate," and VisionTel's Chito-Trim, Turbotone (which also contains white kidney bean extract), and the Impulse (female) and Maximus (female) herbal supplements.

Among the unproven claims were that the substances were "fat magnets," blocked the absorption of calories, reduced weight without diet or exercise, and had no harmful side effects

VisionTel will have to pay $750,000 to settle, while Pinnacle will pay $219,000, both having pleaded that they couldn't afford to pay any more. If the FTC finds that either has put its books on a quicky diet to avoid unwanted dollars, there is an automatic escalation charge that would up the fine to a whopping $35 million for VisionTel and $22.5 million for Pinnacle.

The FTC has been cracking down on bogus dietary supplements, including asking the media to better screen their ads for facially false claims.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.