FTC recovers over $500 million from “get rich” and “lose weight in 3 minute abs workout” scammers

The FTC today announced a $25 million settlement with the marketers of the Ab Circle Pro, an exercise machine that promises you can lose weight and get ripped abs in "just 3 minutes a day;" meanwhile, a federal judge has also approved a $478 million settlement in the FTC's case against a "get rich quick" infomercial king. A good day for consumers.

Kudos to the consumer enforcers over at the Federal Trade Commission. Today they announced a $25 million settlement (including consumer refunds) with the marketers of the Ab Circle Pro, an exercise machine that promised you could lose weight and get ripped abs in “just 3 minutes a day.” According to the FTC, a settling defendant, “pitchwoman Jennifer Nicole Lee, compared the Ab Circle Pro to a gym workout, saying, ‘You can either do 30 minutes of abs and cardio or just three minutes a day.  The choice is yours.'” There are several defendants including defendant Lee (who herself does not owe penalties). The bulk of the penalties and refunds will be paid by the Reader’s Digest Association, which owns several of the co-defendant firms that actually marketed the products. Here’s a link to a short Consumer Reports Magazine Youtube video explaining that: “No, this thing doesn’t really work unless you also actually exercise and diet, too, and the TV ads are full of teeny disclaimers.” Consumers, here is a link to the FTC’s Ab Circle Pro refund claims page.

Also today, a federal judge has approved a “record” $478 million settlement in the FTC’s case against a “get rich quick” infomercial and telemarketing king, John Beck, and various related firms and persons for “deceiving close to one million consumers with phony claims [..] of easy money.” “The Order also imposes a lifetime ban that puts three of the defendants permanently out of the infomercial and telemarketing businesses.” In addition to selling a variety of real estate and other schemes under various names for an entry price of $39.95, the “defendants sold personal coaching services, which cost up to $14,995, to consumers who purchased any of the three systems.”

All in all, a very good day for the FTC and for the consumers it protects.

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Ed Mierzwinski

Senior Director, Federal Consumer Program, U.S. PIRG Education Fund

Ed oversees U.S. PIRG’s federal consumer program, helping to lead national efforts to improve consumer credit reporting laws, identity theft protections, product safety regulations and more. Ed is co-founder and continuing leader of the coalition, Americans For Financial Reform, which fought for the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, including as its centerpiece the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. He was awarded the Consumer Federation of America's Esther Peterson Consumer Service Award in 2006, Privacy International's Brandeis Award in 2003, and numerous annual "Top Lobbyist" awards from The Hill and other outlets. Ed lives in Virginia, and on weekends he enjoys biking with friends on the many local bicycle trails.

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