Gumdrops, lollypops and candy canes shot their final volley in the 2011 battle of the bulge this holiday season, and now the weight loss gimmicks, fads and remedies are crawling out of their trenches and preparing their assault. Better Business Bureau of Southern Arizona cautions consumers to research weight loss products and companies carefully and understand contracts completely — including terms of cancellation — before giving any personal information or making any purchases.
In 2011, BBB received more than 920 complaints nationwide against weight control services, more than 600 complaints against gyms and more than 3,150 complaints against health and diet food stores. Consumers have complained about deceptive advertising, ineffective products and confusing or misleading contracts.
In addition, the Federal Trade Commission has taken action against companies making unsubstantiated medical claims and using deceptive advertising tactics.
“It didn’t do that much for me, to be honest with you,” Texas consumer, Patrice Owens, said about a product she purchased online. “I just wanted my money back and I didn’t want to deal with them anymore.”
Owens was looking to find an appetite suppressor to help her lose weight when she came across a free trial offer. That “free” trial came with an agreement that allowed the company to charge her $90 per month to send additional product. She said she later found that disclosure on the website, but it was not prominent and took some digging. When she called the company to cancel, she was refused a full refund.
“They agreed to give me back $30 of my $90,” she said. “I looked on the website for an address to write them a letter. (There was) no address or anything on their website, so I had to go through the Better Business Bureau to find out where they were.”
BBB received hundreds of complaints last year about “free trial” offers coming with undisclosed or difficult to understand caveats. Most consumers say the company signed them up for a monthly service without clear notification, or made it difficult to cancel and obtain a refund when the consumer was unhappy with the product.
In addition to enrolling her in a monthly program without her consent, Texas resident, Susan Kwasniak, said one company sent her additional products she had not requested and failed to include any instructions on how to use its appetite suppressor.
“When I looked it up on websites, I found a lot of people selling this and they have guides online,” she said. “It’s actually a 500-a-day calorie diet. They never told me that on the phone, and I got that on a competitor’s website, not from them.”
The product — a homeopathic version of the prescription hormone chorionic gonadatropin, also called (more…)