Ab Force

Consumers who bought the Ab Force belt advertised on TV as an effective alternative to regular exercise will be getting their money back from the makers of the device, after the Federal Trade Commission found the marketers made false and deceptive claims that the gimmick caused weight loss and rock-hard abs.

The refunds, valued at approximately $17.89 each, or 90% of the purchase price for the ab belts, went out to 34,130 consumers this week, the FTC said. This is the second round of refunds the company, Telebrands Corporation, has been forced to issue, after it sent more than 50,000 checks last year to other consumers who bought the devices.

Telebrands, creator of the famous "As Seen on TV" logo, has been enmeshed in a legal battle with the FTC over the veracity of its Ab Force claims since 2003. The commission alleged in its complaint then that the company and its principal, Ajit Khubani, falsely claimed the elasticized belt, which consumers were instructed to strap around their abdomen, biceps or thighs, would help them lose weight, inches or fat and create well-defined abdominal muscles. The company also claimed it was an alternative to conventional exercise.

Between December 2001 and May 2002, the period during which Telebrands promoted the Ab Belt, consumers bought more than 700,000 Ab Force belts and accessories. Gross sales of the product, including batteries and massage gel, exceeded $19 million; in 2009, the company agreed to pay $7 million to settle the accusations.

This isn't the first time Telebrands has come up short of its promises. Earlier this year, the company recalled its Therma Scarf scarves after reports that the microwaveable heat packs started fires.

The New Jersey-based telemarketer hawks a long list of infomercial products, some of which have gained fast popularity. Blockbuster items include Jupiter Jack, Ped Egg and the pet-manicuring file Pedi Paws.

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