TV's weight-loss wobbles

By Chloe Johnson

Refunds ruled out for Kiwi slimmers using fitness gear.

The Good Morning infomercial for the Ab Circle Pro which guarantees weight loss.
The Good Morning infomercial for the Ab Circle Pro which guarantees weight loss.

New Zealanders have no claim on a share in millions of dollars of refunds after US authorities debunked weight-loss claims for a controversial exercise machine promoted on TVNZ.

Brand Developers director Paul Meier - the face of infomercials on TV One's Good Morning show - claimed people could lose "5kg in two weeks" using the Ab Circle Pro System for "3 minutes a day".

Last month the US Federal Trade Commission won $30.5 million in refunds for home slimmers in a legal action against companies distributing the Ab Circle Pro in America. The commission said the infomercials which guaranteed dramatic weight loss in two weeks, by using the abdominal machine, were deceptive.

In New Zealand the Advertising Standards Authority upheld a complaint against an infomercial for the Ab Circle Pro V2, the second model of the same fitness machine.

But Meier said his claims differed from US claims and he would not offer refunds.

The US infomercials said the Ab Circle Pro would guarantee a 5kg weight loss but Meier said his claim was different: "I guaranteed that with the Ab Circle Pro system you'll lose 10 pounds [5kg] in just 2 weeks or your money back."

He said the guaranteed weight loss was for customers using the complete Ab Circle Pro System, including the machine, a three-minute workout and a nutritional guide.

He said he also offered a 30-day trial so customers could return the product.

"Every customer already has had their money refunded if they wanted it."

Fitness NZ chief executive Richard Beddie said the infomercial was misleading because it focused on the machine and not the system.

"They don't talk about the 'system' at all."

Commerce Commission spokeswoman Victoria Rogers said they had not investigated advertising claims relating to the Ab Circle Pro.

"We have received two complaints relating to advertising claims about the Ab Circle Pro. Neither of these complaints raised potential issues under the Fair Trading Act," she said.

Rogers said concerned customers should seek legal advice or contact the commission.

The commission could not comment on New Zealand refunds as the legal settlement was in a foreign jurisdiction.

In the US, the Federal Trade Commission charged the companies with making false and unsupported claims and accused promoters of misrepresentation for wrongly claiming a presenter lost 36kg using the Ab Circle Pro.

US promoters have agreed to pay up to $30.5m in refunds over deceptive advertising.

Device busts budget, not abs

Kevin Kerwin wants his money back.

The health and fitness fanatic bought an Ab Circle Pro for about $350 last year during a "silly moment" watching infomercials.

The 40-year-old businessman said he used it 10 times before the rollers went bust. "It's not all it's cracked out to be, I just hang my clothes on it now," Kerwin said. "I wish I got my refund."

He admitted it was good for stretching his lower back but did nothing to enhance his abdominals as promised.

- Herald on Sunday

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