The Woodland Hills company of Joe Weider, a leader in body building for decades, has agreed to pay at least $400,000 to settle a complaint by the Federal Trade Commission that the company sold vitamin pills by falsely claiming they would grow masses of muscles on those who took them.
Weider Health & Fitness Inc. agreed to refund the purchase price paid by those who bought its "Anabolic Mega-Pak" or "Dynamic Life Essence" pills, spokesmen for the company and the FTC said Monday.
Company spokesman Dietrich Nelson said the firm had entered a consent agreement with the FTC to avoid the "time and expense of litigation" and did not admit "any inaccuracies or illegalities with respect to previous advertising claims for the two nutritional products."
If refund claims do not total at least $400,000, the company will donate the difference to recognized nutrition and health researchers, according to a spokesman for the FTC, which polices deceptive business practices. If the claims total more than $400,000, the company must pay the higher sum, he said.
The refund offer must be advertised in two magazines through which the substances were sold, Flex and Muscle and Fitness. Muscle and Fitness is published by the International Federation of Bodybuilders, which Weider founded in 1946 and still heads.
When it filed a complaint against the firm last year, the FTC estimated that Weider had sold $4 million worth of the substances through advertisements that compared them to anabolic steroids.
The FTC said the ads claimed Anabolic Mega-Pak pills were "scientifically created to replace steroids for the creation of maximum fat-free muscle mass" and that Dynamic Life Essence Pills would give those who took them "awesome power." The ads recommended the two substances be taken together, with a month's supply costing $85.
At the time the complaint was filed, the FTC said the pills were harmless but "virtually worthless" as muscle-builders.
True anabolic steroid drugs do increase muscle mass, but have undesirable side effects.
In 1976, Weider was ordered by a Superior Court judge to offer refunds to the estimated 100,000 Californians who bought his company's $10.95 "five-minute body shaper." The Los Angeles district attorney's office charged that the device was falsely advertised as capable of bringing about significant weight loss through only five minutes a day of exercise, and that "before and after" photos in Weider's ads were misrepresentations.
Weider heads a $29-million-a-year company that produces nutritional supplements, health food, sporting goods and magazines for body builders.
Nelson said Weider was in Europe and unavailable for comment on the settlement.