Bogus Weight-Loss Claims Leads to $9 Million in Fines

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A hawker of green coffee bean extract as a miracle weight loss remedy has agreed to pay $9 million in consumer redress as part of a settlement announced Monday with the Federal Trade Commission.

Under the settlement, Lindsey Duncan and the companies he controlled are barred from making "deceptive claims about the health benefits or efficacy of any dietary supplement or drug product," according to an FTC statement. The defendants also must substantiate any future weight-loss claims with at least two well-controlled human clinical tests.

Duncan touted the weight-loss benefits of green coffee bean extract through appearances on "The Dr. Oz Show," "The View" and other TV programs. Duncan used his "Dr. Oz" appearance in his marketing campaign after the show aired, the complaint stated. Also, the complaint said that Duncan's paid spokespeople portrayed themselves on TV as independent sources of information without disclosing their financial ties to the companies. Duncan's companies subsequently sold tens of millions of dollars worth of the extract, according to the FTC.

"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. "This case shows that the Federal Trade Commission will continue to fight deceptive marketers' attempts to prey on consumers trying to improve their health."

The FTC charged that Duncan and his companies deceptively claimed that the supplement could let consumers lose 17 pounds and 16 percent of their body fat in just 12 weeks without diet or exercise. He backed up the statement with a clinical study, which the FTC charged was severely flawed. In September 2014, the FTC settled charges against the company that sponsored the severely flawed study that Duncan discussed on "Dr. Oz." In October, the Texas Attorney General's office charged Duncan with duping the public by claiming to be a doctor when he isn't one.
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