FTC Sees Red Over Green Coffee TV Pitches

Companies controlled by Lindsey Duncan that marketed green coffee bean supplements as weight loss products on The Dr. Oz Show, The View and other TV programs has agreed to pay $9 million in consumer redress and stop making deceptive health claims about the products.

That is according to the Federal Trade Commission, which announced the settlement Monday.

“Lindsey Duncan and his companies made millions by falsely claiming that green coffee bean supplements cause significant and rapid weight loss,” said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, in a statement. “This case shows that the Federal Trade Commission will continue to fight deceptive marketers’ attempts to prey on consumers trying to improve their health.”

Those companies are Genesis Today and Pure Health LLC.

The FTC said Duncan had used his appearance on the Dr. Oz show to promote the product even before he made it, telling retailers to watch for it and the clinical trials he would be talking about.

In September 2014, the FTC settled with the company that sponsored the study cited by Duncan.

The FTC voted 5-0 to approve the settlement.

The so-called "Oz effect" was the subject of a Senate haering last June. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), chair of the Senate Consumer Protection subcommittee, told Oz at the June 17 hearing that she was worried that his use of terms like "miracle" and "magic" were abetting the scammers who use clips from his show to promote their products, including green coffeee beans. "While I understand that your message is occasionally focused on basics like healthy eating and exercise, I am concerned that you are melding medical advice, news, and entertainment in a way that harms consumers," she said.

Oz conceded that his flowery language had made the Federal Trade Commission's job harder, and that he had toned it down, though not his passion for some of the products he promoted, including ones his own family use, as a way to "jump start" viewers to lose weight and eat healthier.

AT the time, Mary Koelbel Engle, associate director of the Federal Trade Commission's ad practices division, was asked whether the commission had the authority and inclination to pursue media outlets for carrying the false and deceptive claims. Engle said the FTC had the power, but that there were First Amendment issues in suing those outlets, and that the commissioner preferred working with the media voluntarily, a line the FTC has historically taken.

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.