Infomercial police keep them honest

WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA9) -- A catchy song and just the right combination of science and salesmanship can get your attention and your dollars.

But, those lighthearted pitches can be downright deceiving. Take the Hawaii Chair which promises to target your core muscles, and give you a fat-burning workout all while you sit.

"When they investigated it, they determined there was not substantiation for those very specific health claims," says Julie Coons.

She heads up the Electronic Retailing Association, the organization that represents the infomercial industry.

"It is very much the intent of responsible marketers to make sure that the products that could cause safety or health damage to individuals are not on the market," says Coons.

The ERA has a police force of sorts called the Electronic Retailing Self-Regulation Program or ERSP.

ERSP screens, sanctions and then refers companies to the Federal Trade Commission to take action against them when their claims just aren't true.

But can the industry really police itself. When people reached for the Smart For Life Diet Cookie to lose up to 15 pounds a month, ERSP saw all kinds of red flags and went after the company.

Coons says, "Most of us know that eating cookies on its own is not going to lead to weight loss."

The industry goes after even more serious offenders, too. In 1999, they shut down Enforma System which claimed to prevent fat from ever growing in your body again. Now, they're taking on Kelacore which promises to clear up your arteries and improve blood flow.

"It is a very serious matter when a company is referred to the Federal Trade Commission. And, as they have told us, it will go to the top of the pile," says Julie Coons.

Coons says most of the industry plays by the rules. But, if you're ever wondering about that late night infomercial, Coons says, "If it's true good to be true, it's probably not true."

All the infomercials you saw in Lesli's story have been modified to ensure that the ads are more accurate.

None of them had to be referred to the FTC.

We reached out to Nature's Medicine Associates - the makers of Kelacore - to ask about their product, no one called us back.

If you see a product that needs to be reported you you can find the ERA here: Electronic Retailing Association


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