Chicago, IL –(ENEWSPF)– Many Americans resolve to lose extra pounds every New Year, but Better Business Bureau is warning consumers that the number of complaints to BBB against weight-loss services and their various policies, procedures and products has increased by more than 40 percent since 2002, and many weight-loss schemes are only making consumers lighter in their wallets.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than a third (34 percent) of U.S. adults aged 20 and over are obese. And a year-end survey conducted by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) 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, all of which added up to make fat-fighting fraud 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 Steve J. Bernas president & CEO of The Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois. “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.”
To emphasize the very real need for consumers to start their weight-loss research with trustworthy advice, following are examples of companies that BBB has rated as unsatisfactory due to their empty promises and unscrupulous business practices:
Fraudulent Clinical Trials
BBB serving Denver and Boulder 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, Inc. — is advertising 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. For their trouble, the company promises to refund the $144 after the first month and compensate consumers $319.73 each month. Complainants allege that they paid the required $144, received pills, and never heard from the company again; they never received a refund, compensation, or additional pills.
BBB serving Eastern Washington, North Idaho & Montana has received complaints from 19 states for Wu-Yi Source – a company that maintains a Billings, MT 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 4-6 weeks, and questioned whether they were dieting and exercising. Consumers allege that the company is merely using a stall tactic to get them to go past the 60-day mark so the company doesn’t have to honor its refund policy.
BBB serving Dallas and Northeast Texas has received complaints from across eight states for Changes International Inc. The company promises “QUIT SMOKING & LOSE WEIGHT in one brief HYPNOSIS SESSION” and offers a 100 percent money back 10-year guarantee if the hypnosis doesn’t work. Until confronted by BBB, the company attempted to instill trust in consumers by falsely claiming in online and print advertising that 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 serving the St. Louis metro area has received more than 350 complaints and reports about a company called GO FIG, INC– doing business as fig. and Advanced Lipo Dissolve Center – a company that administered fat-dissolving micro-injections for upwards of $10,000. The procedure is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) 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. The St. Louis-based company went out of business suddenly in December citing “economic conditions” and shut 17 of its 18 offices nationwide – however, many other companies across the country currently offer similar procedures.
Given alarming levels, and increasing rates of fraud associated with the weight-loss industry, BBB is advising consumers to research the reputation of companies offering weight-loss solutions before making a purchasing decision.
For trustworthy information on weight-loss companies, consumers can access BBB Reliability ReportsTM online, free of charge, at www.chicago.bbb.org.
As a private, non-profit organization, the purpose of the Better Business Bureau is to promote an ethical marketplace. BBBs help resolve buyer/seller complaints by means of conciliation, mediation and arbitration. BBBs also review advertising claims, online business practices and charitable organizations. BBBs develop and issue reports on businesses and nonprofit organizations and encourage people to check out a company or charity before making a purchase or donation.