Tip of the Week: Don't let weight-loss guarantees lighten your wallet
Make a New Year’s resolution to lose weight? Make sure you don’t end up just making your wallet lighter.
The Better Business Bureau says the number of complaints against weight-loss services has increased by more than 40 percent since 2002.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than a third of U.S. adults 20 and older are obese. A year-end 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.
The FTC rates fat-fighting fraud as the most common consumer scam in 2007.
“Losing weight consistently ranks as one of the top New Year’s resolutions and many people will be looking for fast, easy fixes to get them back into their favorite pair of jeans,” said BBB spokesman Steve Cox. “Unfortunately, an increasing number of consumers are telling us about weight-loss products and programs that made a big dent in their bottom line but had no effect on their waistline.”
Here are examples of companies the BBB has rated as unsatisfactory due to empty promises and unscrupulous business practices:
Fraudulent clinical trials
BBB has received complaints from consumers in six states who thought they were paying to take part in medical trial tests for a new weight-loss drug.
The company, Metacor -- also known as Progenics -- advertises on the Internet, noting that people who are interested should “enroll” in their program, pay $144 up front, and then take a special new weight loss pill every day for two years. The company promises to refund the $144 after the first month and compensate consumers $319.73 each month. Complainants say they paid the required $144, received pills, and never heard from the company again.
BBB has received complaints from 19 states about Wu-Yi Source, a company that maintains a Billings, Mont., drop-box address. Wu-Yi Source offers a 100 percent “iron-clad” refund for their weight-loss tea. But dozens of consumers say that when seeking a refund, company reps provided vague answers, told them to use the products for four to six weeks, and questioned whether they were dieting and exercising. Consumers say the company was stalling to get them to go past the 60-day refund mark.
BBB has received complaints from eight states about Changes International. The company promises “Quit Smoking & Lose Weight in one brief hypnosis session” and offers a 100 percent money back 10-year guarantee. Until confronted by BBB, the company claimed 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.
BBB has received more than 350 complaints and reports about companies that administer fat-dissolving injections costing as much as $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 BBB also reveal improper billing practices and difficulty obtaining refunds. One St. Louis-based company went out of business suddenly in December citing “economic conditions” and shut 17 of its 18 offices nationwide, but many other companies across the country
currently offer similar procedures.
For information on weight-loss companies, consumers can access BBB Reliability Reports online for free at www.bbb.org.