Money obtained by FTC and Maine Attorney General in two related cases
The Federal Trade Commission is mailing 104,612 checks totaling nearly $3.5 million to people who bought weight-loss supplements marketed by Maine-based sellers Direct Alternatives and Original Organics, LLC. Affected consumers will receive their refund checks, which average $33.12, within the next week. The FTC and the Maine Attorney General’s Office obtained the money in the settlement of two related cases against these sellers and a marketing company that created and disseminated advertisements for Direct Alternative’s weight-loss products.
In February 2016, the agencies charged Direct Alternatives, Original Organics, LLC, and their owners, Anthony Dill and his wife Staci Dill, with violations of the FTC Act and Maine consumer protection laws in connection with the promotion and sale of weight-loss supplements AF Plus and Final Trim. The complaint alleged that between 2012 and 2016, the defendants’ sales of the supplements totaled more than $16 million.
The FTC and the Maine Attorney General’s Office alleged the defendants falsely claimed users of their products would lose weight quickly and easily, and that the results were “proven” by scientific studies. In addition, the agencies alleged that the defendants used deceptive offers of “risk-free” trials, and automatically enrolled people without their consent in programs that charged them for additional products each month.
The court order settling these charges banned the defendants from claiming any dietary supplement, over-the-counter drug, patch, cream, wrap, or other product worn on, or rubbed into, the skin can cause rapid or substantial weight loss or can cause a certain amount of weight loss over a certain period. It also banned them from the deceptive use of “free trial” offers and from billing consumers without their consent. Finally, the order required the defendants to liquidate a substantial portion of their assets to provide refunds to consumers who bought their products.
In February 2018, the FTC and Maine Attorney General also filed a complaint against Marketing Architects, Inc. (MAI), an advertising agency that created and disseminated deceptive radio ads for Direct Alternatives’ AF Plus and Final Trim supplements. MAI settled the charges, and, among other things, agreed to pay $2 million to be used for consumer refunds. The complaint cited MAI’s history of creating ads with similar claims for other weight-loss marketers.
The refund checks mailed this week represent a combination of the money collected in the two cases. Recipients should deposit or cash checks within 60 days, as indicated on the check. The FTC never requires people to pay money or provide account information to cash a refund check.
Consumers with questions about these refunds should contact the FTC’s refund administrator, Epiq Systems, at 888-842-3154. More information about the FTC’s refund program is available at http://ftc.gov/refunds.