You know those late night infomercials for those circular machines set on handle bars that promise to flatten your belly and give you a 6-pack in no time? Well… let’s just say, the claims are not all they’re cracked up to be-in case you hadn’t figured that out on your own, or worse yet, actually bought the instrument in a desperate late night telephone call to the listed 1-800 number in the infomercial.
According to the ads, if you used the Ab Circle Pro for just three minutes a day, you would lose weight incredibly fast. That, not surprisingly, is not the case and the manufacturers recently agreed to settle with the FTC for up to $25 million in refunds to people who bought the machines, for deceptive advertising. The settlement represents the largest ever settlement involving an exercise machine.
The Ab Circle Pro costs as much as $250 and ads for the machine were shown 10,000 times in the U.S. The ads featured fitness model Nicole Lee.
According to the ad, the user had to spend just three minutes with the instrument which allowed users to swivel on a fiberglass disk. They claimed that it was the equivalent of 100 sit-ups and that they would lose 10 pounds in just two weeks. Nicole Lee claimed that the Ab Circle helped her lose 80 pounds. According to the FTC, however, the claims were false or unsupported.
This settlement represents the latest FTC effort to crack down on weight loss and fitness equipment manufacturers. Just three months ago, popular sneaker brand Skechers USA agreed to pay $50 million to settle false advertising claims regarding the health benefits of its Shape-Up toning shoes which featured a sloped sole. In 2011, Reebok agreed to pay $25 million to settle a similar claim for its own toning shoe.
The ads for the Ab Circle Pro aired for a little over one year from 2009 to 2010. Once the FTC started its investigation, the ads stopped being shown. The Ab Circle was not only advertised on TV. It was also advertised on the internet, in shorter TV commercials and in print ads. It was sold both online and in stores. The rights to the Ab Circle are owned by a Nevada company named Fitness Brands. It has agreed to pay $1.2 million of the settlement. Reader’s Digest and two of its subsidiaries, which helped market and distribute the device, agreed to pay at least approximately $14 million, and they could pay as much as $10 million more than that depending on the number of refund requests that are made.
Reader’s Digest for its part denied any wrongdoing and asserted that it settled the claims in order to avoid a long, drawn-out legal battle.
Nicole Lee agreed not to make any claims of substantial weight loss or fitness regarding the ab circle and not to make such claims generally unless they are supported by reliable scientific evidence.