L’Occitane to Pay $450K to FTC for False Claims

Settlement requires the beauty company to pay $450,000 for consumer redress.

The Federal Trade Commission has approved a final consent order settling charges that beauty products and cosmetics marketer L’Occitane violated the Federal Trade Commission Act with claims about the slimming properties of its Almond Beautiful Shape and Almond Shaping Delight skin creams.

This story first appeared in the April 9, 2014 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

First revealed in January, followed by a public comment period, the settlement with L’Occitane requires the company to pay $450,000 for consumer redress and prohibits it from making future false and deceptive weight-loss claims. The commission vote to approve the final order in this case was 4 to 0.

When the FTC unveiled the action against L’Occitane in January, it was part of its “Operation Failed Resolution,” an ongoing effort to stop misleading claims for products promoting easy weight loss and slimmer bodies. The FTC said L’Occitane claimed its skin cream would slim users’ bodies but had no science to back up that claim. The agency also brought charges at that time against the marketers of Sensa, which it said exhorted consumers to “sprinkle, eat, and lose weight,” and HCG Diet Direct, which marketed an unproven human hormone that has been touted by hucksters for more than half a century as a weight-loss treatment.

“Resolutions to lose weight are easy to make but hard to keep,” said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “And the chances of being successful just by sprinkling something on your food, rubbing cream on your thighs or using a supplement are slim to none. The science just isn’t there.”

L’Occitane, an online and in-store retailer of beauty and cosmetic products that charged $48 for 7 ounces of Almond Shaping Delight and $44 for 6.7 ounces of Almond Beautiful Shape, launched an advertising campaign in 2012 claiming that Almond Beautiful Shape could “trim 1.3 inches in just four weeks,” and that it was a “cellulite fighter,” and that Almond Shaping Delight has “clinically proven slimming effectiveness,” and will “visibly refine and reshape the silhouette, to resculpt and tone the body contours.” L’Occitane’s ads also claimed that both products could produce a “noticeably slimmer, firmer you…(in just four weeks!).”

The proposed settlement bans the company from claiming that any product applied to the skin causes substantial weight or fat loss or a substantial reduction in body size, prohibits the company from claiming that any drug or cosmetic causes weight or fat loss or a reduction in body size unless the claim is backed by two adequate and well-controlled human clinical studies, requires that any claim that a drug or cosmetic reduces or eliminates cellulite or affects body fat or weight be backed by competent and reliable scientific evidence, and prohibits the company from misrepresenting the results of any test, study or research, or that the benefits of a product are scientifically proven.