Hawker of diet supplements makes hefty settlement

Lindsey Duncan, who has appeared on numerous TV shows as "Dr. Duncan" to promote diet supplements, agreed to pay $9 million in refunds to consumers to settle charges that he and his company "deceptively touted the supposed weight-loss benefits of green coffee bean extract," the Federal Trade Commission said on Monday.

Duncan promoted the supplements in appearances on "The Dr. Oz Show" and "The View," among others, the FTC said. The problem is, according to the agency, he had no evidence that the supplements he was hawking could be of any benefit to users.

"Lindsey Duncan and his companies made millions by falsely claiming that green coffee bean supplements cause significant and rapid weight loss," Jessica Rich, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement.

In October, Duncan's home state of Texas filed charges against him for, among other things, claiming he was a doctor. And in June, Dr. Mehmet Oz was blasted on Capitol Hill for promoting such products.

Duncan and his companies, Pure Health and Genesis Today, claimed that using the supplements would lead users to drop 17 pounds and 16 percent of their body fat in three months without doing any exercise or dieting. He said that claim was backed up by a clinical study, which the FTC said was hardly scientific.

His appearance on the Dr. Oz Show, the FTC said, was orchestrated to take advantage of the big marketing push products discussed on the show enjoy and included key phrases that consumers could use to find the product online. Afterward, Duncan and his companies used the hype to try to get Walmart (WMT) and Amazon (AMZN) to carry the supplements.

Sales in the tens of millions of dollars followed, the FTC said. Now, Duncan and his companies are prohibited from making such weight-loss claims without the support of "two well-controlled human clinical tests."

Duncan must pay $5 million in the next two weeks toward the $9 million total due to consumers who purchased the supplements.

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    Mitch Lipka is an award-winning consumer columnist. He was in charge of consumer news for AOL's personal finance site and was a senior editor at Consumer Reports. He was also a reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, among other publications.