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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Three minutes a day on the Ab Circle Pro will not melt away the pounds, and marketers of the exercise device will have to pay as much as $25 million in refunds for making the false claims, U.S. regulators said on Thursday.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission filed deceptive advertising charges against the abdominal exercise device's marketers. The marketers have agreed to settlements that force them to refund between $15 million and $25 million in sales, depending on the number of consumers that make requests.
The Ab Circle Pro was advertised as enabling its pitchwoman, Jennifer Nicole Lee, to lose 80 pounds after having two children and then launch a career as a fitness model.
Infomercials for the product touted Lee saying: "You can either do 30 minutes of abs and cardio or just three minutes a day. The choice is yours."
The infomercials aired more than 10,000 times from March 2009 to May 2010, and the Ab Circle Pro was also marketed online, in stores, on TV commercials and in print ads. The device sold for between $200 and $250 from the infomercials and at various prices from other retailers.
"The FTC reminds marketers that they should think twice before promising a silver-bullet solution to a health problem - whether it involves losing weight or curing cancer. Weight loss is hard work, and telling consumers otherwise is deceptive," David Vladeck, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement.
The marketers are prohibited from making false claims in the future about the Ab Circle Pro, the FTC said. Lee is also barred from misrepresenting that device or other fitness products.
The marketers named in the complaint include infomercial producer Tara Borakos and her companies Tara Productions Inc and New U Inc; and Jennifer Nicole Lee and her companies JNL Inc and JNL Worldwide Inc.
Fitness Brands Inc, Fitness Brands International Inc, and Michael Casey and David Brodess, who control those companies, were also named as defendants, as well as Direct Holdings Americas Inc and Direct Entertainment Media Group Inc, which are subsidiaries of Reader's Digest Association Inc.
The marketers did not immediately respond to requests for a comment.
The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida on Wednesday. The settlement does not constitute an admission that the law was violated.
Reporting By Jasmin Melvin; Editing by Maureen Bavdek