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Don't be taken in by fake weight loss claims

delhi Updated: Mar 19, 2011 23:53 IST
Pushpa Girimaji
Pushpa Girimaji
Hindustan Times
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"Lose weight up to 15 kg in three months by natural juice. Pure and herbal. No side effects. 100% results with money back guarantee. Just for Rs 1,999. Call …" said an unsolicited SMS on a friend's mobile phone.

"What do you think? Should I try? After all, what will I lose? If it does not work, I will get my money back," she said.

I said first and foremost, the so-called harmless natural juice may well cause her immense harm (she does not know what it contains and its consumption may affect her health. Secondly, there was every possibility of whoever was advertising this and promising home delivery, collecting the money and disappearing without a trace. 'The money back guarantee' may well be a hoax, I said.

In fact this form of guarantee has now become the new mantra to get consumers to buy products and services and unfortunately in a number of cases, the person or the company making such a promise has no intention of keeping it up. Here is a typical example.

Madhuri Bhattacharya: In response to an advertisement, I ordered a slimming medicine from Puducherry. It came by VPP and I paid Rs 2,130 and took the delivery. This was on money back guarantee if the medicine fails to give desired results.

To my great disappointment, there was no decrease in my weight as promised. When I complained, they asked me to send the empty containers of the medicine for a full refund. I did but after that I never got back my money. I have sent them several reminders but there is no response. Besides getting my money back, I want to warn others about such fake promises.

Answer: This is a clear case of unfair trade practice. In fact, the company is guilty of unfair trade practice on two counts - first in making a false claim about its product and then not keeping its promise about refunding your money in case the product failed to work. So, the company not only has to refund your money, but also compensate you.

While computing the compensation, you should also ask the consumer court to take into consideration your disappointment on account of the failure of the 'medicine' to help you reduce weight.

Also, this is a fit case for asking punitive damages. So, please file a complaint immediately before the consumer court.

The Consumer Protection Act prohibits unfair trade practices such as these and provides for compensation to consumers affected by such advertisements.

It also gives the consumer courts the power to put a stop to such advertisements and also direct the company to issue corrective advertisements.

So, when you file your complaint, please make sure that you attach a copy of the advertisement/brochure issued by the company in regard to the weight reduction claim as well as the money back guarantee.

I would also request you to kindly send a copy of your complaint to the Advertising Standards Council of India - a self-regulatory voluntary organisation of the advertising industry. You can download the complaint form from its website

The Consumer Complaints Council of ASCI investigates into such complaints and ensures that advertisements that are false or misleading or violate the 'Code for Self- Regulation in Advertising' drawn up by the ASCI are withdrawn or modified.

The ASCI Code prohibits advertisements that are misleading or make false claims about a product or a service, either directly or indirectly.

I would also suggest that you write to the Puducherry health department, asking them to take action against this company under the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act for issuing misleading and false advertisements pertaining to drugs for obesity.