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David Baxter

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'Natural Cures' author in contempt, says FTC

FTC: 'Natural Cures' author in contempt
Friday, September 14
by Bob Sullivan

TV pitchman and best-selling author Kevin Trudeau is once again in the legal crosshairs of the Federal Trade Commission.

His new book, Weight Loss Cure ?They? Don?t Want You to Know About, is already on best-seller lists, but the FTC says Trudeau's advertising for the book is misleading and violates a court order prohibiting him from deceiving consumers in infomercials.

"In each of these infomercials Trudeau misrepresents that his protocol is easy and once completed, users can eat everything they want yet still maintain their weight loss,? the agency said in a legal brief filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Chicago. ?Contrary to these claims, his book?s weight loss program is arduous and requires severe food restrictions."

The FTC is asking the court to find Trudeau in contempt for violating the previous court order.

Lawyers for Trudeau did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Trudeau has a long history as an infomercial salesman, and as a legal adversary of the FTC. He was sued by the agency in 1998 and again in 2003. A 2004 order settling charges that he falsely advertised the use of coral calcium as a cure for cancer banned Trudeau from appearing in infomercials, but included an exception for book advertisements. But the order specifically prohibited Trudeau from misrepresenting book content, and the FTC argues that is what he is doing in his current TV ads.

"Trudeau is once again demonstrating his disregard for court orders by making blatant misrepresentations about the ease and restrictiveness of the protocol described in his weight loss book in violation of the current Permanent Injunction," the FTC said.

Trudeau is best known for his prior book, Natural Cures ?They? Don't Want You To Know About, which the author claims sold millions of copies.

Trudeau began hawking his new book on TV in December, the FTC said. His infomercial was among the top 10 most frequently aired long-form ads in February, March and July, it said.

The FTC's legal challenge hinges on Trudeau's claim in the ads that the weight loss program is "easy" and requires "no deprivation."

The book describes a three- to six-week regimen that requires the dieter to take daily injections of a prescription drug not approved for weight loss use by the FDA, the FTC said. Readers are also told to stick to a 500-calorie-per-day diet.

?Trudeau?s book describes a four-phase protocol that is a far cry from the infomercials? promise of ?the easiest method known on planet Earth. Indeed, the weight loss plan revealed in the book is hardly easy, mandating such onerous requirements,? the FTC alleged.

The FTC said that in addition to seeking a contempt of court finding, it will pursue "consumer redress."
 

David Baxter

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'Weight Loss Cures' author found in contempt
By Bob Sullivan
Mon, Nov 19 2007

TV pitchman extraordinaire Kevin Trudeau has been found in contempt of court by a federal judge in Illinois.

Trudeau, author of the best-selling book Weight Loss Cures They Don't Want You to Know About, hawks his books in seemingly ubiquitous late-night television infomercials.

But U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman ruled Friday that Trudeau had "misled thousands of consumers" in the ads by making claims that are "patently false." A hearing to determine Trudeau's penalty, and the future of his advertising, has not yet been set. FTC attorney Laureen Kapin said the agency will ask the judge to make Trudeau provide "consumer redress," which might ulimtately include financial compensation for book purchasers.

Trudeau, who also wrote the best-seller Natural Cures They Don't Want You to Know About, makes ambitious claims about a weight loss program in his new book. Readers are instructed to follow a set of "protocols," including obtaining a series of colonics, a daily hormone injection, eating only organic foods, and at one point slimming food intake down to 500 calories a day.

In seeking the contempt of court ruling, the Federal Trade Commission argued that Trudeau?s infomercials violate a court order he signed in 2004 prohibiting him from making misleading claims in television ads.

In the weight loss commercials, Trudeau repeatedly tells viewers that it's easy to follow his diet regimen. He also says that those who follow his diet can eventually eat whatever foods they like.

Gettleman found both statements to be misleading.

"Mr. Trudeau states ad nauseum in his infomercials that his diet is ?easy.? As the FTC points out, the dietary regimen prescribed by the weight loss book is anything but," he wrote. In the commercials, Trudeau "fails to mention that the diet requires 15 colonics in a 30-day period and a 500-calorie per day limit necessitating a physician's supervision," the judge said.

Trudeau's lawyers argued that his commercials represent only Trudeau?s opinion, which is protected by the First Amendment. They also argued that a certain degree of ?puffing," or hyperbole, is standard in advertising.

'Easy' is not an opinion
But Gettleman found that the word "easy" is not an opinion, but rather an advertising term with legal meaning. And he noted that the U.S. Supreme Court found in 1949 that advertisements claiming dieters can "easily" shed pounds "without torturous diet" were misleading when the actual dieting program was misrepresented.

"Mr. Trudeau is simply incorrect that the term 'easy' is always puffing or an expression of opinion," he said.

The judge also found Trudeau?s claim in the ad that he can now eat anything he wants, including mashed potatoes and gravy "loaded with fat,? to be misleading. He noted that in his book, Trudeau writes that dieters must follow a strict eating regime "for the rest of your life."

"How Mr. Trudeau was able to eat a 'big' portion of prime rib 'marbled with fat' and a 'big hot fudge sundae with real ice cream, real hot fudge, real nuts and real whipped cream' and still follow (the regimen) remains a mystery,? Gettleman said. ?As far as this court can tell, it is impossible. More importantly, though, it is misleading, and it misrepresents the contact of his book in flagrant violation of this court's order."

Gettleman also dismissed the argument that Trudeau was entitled to First Amendment protection in the book and infomercial. Specifically, as commercial speech, the TV ad is not protected speech, the judge noted.

David Bradford, Trudeau's personal lawyer, was not immediately available for comment. But in September, he defended the infomercials.

"The advertising has been airing for many months. There are no complaints about it," he said at the time. "There are no consumers? complaints of any consequence that we're aware of."

He said the Trudeau has a First Amendment right to say anything he wants in the book, and by extension, in the infomercial.

"Whether he's right or wrong is for the public to decide, not the government," he said.
 

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