Ab fitness makers settle ad deception suit

Customers who bought the Ab Circle Pro may

Customers who bought the Ab Circle Pro may get refunds. (Credit: Handout)

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Companies marketing the Ab Circle Pro exercise device have agreed to pay as much as $25 million in refunds to customers to settle federal regulators’ charges of deceptive advertising.

The Federal Trade Commission said it was deceptive to promise that people could lose 10 pounds in two weeks by using the abdominal exercise device for only three minutes a day. The TV infomercials, which ran more than 10,000 times from March 2009 to May 2010, touted the fiberglass disk with handlebars and knee rests selling for $200 to $250.

The FTC had filed a civil lawsuit against the companies. In the settlements announced Thursday, Fitness Brands Inc., Fitness Brands International Inc., Direct Holdings Americas Inc. and Direct Entertainment Media Group Inc. agreed to pay a total of at least $15 million and up to $25 million, depending on the amount of refunds requested. Consumers seeking refunds can go to ftc.gov.

Reader's Digest Association Inc. also agreed to contribute to the refunds. The association was named as a relief defendant in the FTC's suit filed Wednesday in federal court in Miami because it benefitted from the advertising.

Fitness Brands Inc., Fitness Brands International and Michael Casey and David Brodess, who the FTC says control the companies, agreed to pay a total $1.2 million. Direct Holdings Americas, Direct Entertainment Media Group and Reader's Digest Association together are paying $13.8 million and up to an additional $10 million, depending on total customer refund requests.

Under terms of the settlements, none of the defendants admitted wrongdoing.

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