Junkfood Science: Out of business: the country’s largest weight loss chain

January 16, 2008

Out of business: the country’s largest weight loss chain

Amidst the nonstop diet and weight loss commercials that are besieging us this month with unprecedented intensity, have you noticed the silence from the country’s largest weight loss chain? For years, you couldn’t turn on the television without seeing an ad for LA Weight Loss Centers — the corporate-owned outlets renamed 'Pure Weight Loss' last year.

But that's no more, because Pure Weight Loss, Inc. (formerly LA Weight Loss Centers) based in Horsham, Pennsylvania, went out of business on January 4th — shutting down all 400 corporate centers across the country — and leaving countless numbers of consumers high and dry. Unsuspecting customers had prepaid unfathomable amounts of money for expensive weight loss products, diet bars and “nutrition” supplements... money they aren’t likely to ever see.

Barry Goodman, owner of the center in Fort Meyers, Florida, issued a press statement to its 300 customers, saying the LA Weight Loss franchise closed “due to market conditions beyond our control.”

U.S. Bankruptcy Court documents in Philadelphia, reportedly show the company filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on Friday and had more than 100,000 creditors and estimated its liabilities at $10 million to $50 million. Annual revenues had been reported as $44.9 million.


Pure Weight Loss has been involved in a number of lawsuits over the years for making false claims about its weight loss program. Consumer Affairs reports class action lawsuits in Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Washington state. “Five years ago, the company agreed to pay the state of New York $100,000, plus $10,000 in legal fees, to settle a lawsuit charging that it falsely advertised the cost of its program,” reported the Daily Local News in West Whiteland, Pennsylvania.

Two years ago, Washington state Attorney General’s office reported it had settled with LA Weight Loss for $800,000 plus $75,000 in attorney’s fees and court costs for similar charges of misrepresenting its programs. In addition, the centers were “prohibited from claiming that their supplements have any health or weight loss benefit unless they first have competent and reliable scientific evidence to substantiate their claims.” The Attorney General also alleged that there was “no such evidence to back up LA Weight Loss claims that its FB500 supplement caused customers to lose weight by trapping, blocking or otherwise absorbing dietary fat.”

Oregon Attorney General, Hardy Myers, filed a lawsuit against LA Weight Loss and its Oregon Franchisee, charging it with “false and misleading representations about the costs, fees, products, and benefits associated with the program.” The Oregon Department of Justice press release provides an inside look at the false promises made to consumers and what benefits they actually received. Consumer Affairs boards also offer insights into consumer experiences with LA Weight loss.

The marketing sounded much like other weight loss plans. Despite the name, consumers have been told: “The LA Weight Loss plan is not a diet — it's a lifestyle change.” With this plan, the plan's website promises: “There is no starvation, no drugs or injections, no intense workouts or strenuous exercise and no dangerous surgery! You eat REAL foods and it's REALLY easy! The difference is that with LA Weight Loss you are NOT alone; your LA Weight Loss counseling team will be with you every step of the way to help you reach your weight loss goal.”

The Attorney General of Missouri is once again in the news this week. He’s already begun an investigation on behalf consumers in his state who’d paid upfront, some as much as $1,500, for products they never received. His office has already received 79 complaints. “Local customers report they were aggressively encouraged to buy pound-shedding food products at a discounted rate up until weeks before the closing date,” the Columbia Tribune reported. Last month, as you may remember, the AG had gotten involved with another investigation when the largest provider of lipodissolve (those injections promising to melt fat) in the country suddenly went out of business, closing all 19 centers across the country.

In fact, Attorney Generals across the country are already in motion. Pennsylvania AG has received hundreds of complaints against Pure Weight Loss Center there and has begun an investigation. A surge of news stories and online forums are sharing the tragic stories of women who’d plunked down extraordinary amounts of money for the promise of slimness and now find the doors closed and products undelivered.

The company’s website is inactive, offering only a refund application form and saying that applications are “currently being evaluated.” What are the chances that anyone will see refunds? Investigative reporter Al Sunshine with CBS-4 in Miami set to find out. What he found were dozens of completed refund claim forms in the dumpster behind the now vacant Pure Weight Loss Center in Miami. As Sunshine reported: “Many of these forms were completely filled out with the customer’s name and personal information including their address, their medical histories and their weight,” leaving these consumers vulnerable to identity theft, too.

There’s been an air of near desperation in the unparalelled intensity of weight loss marketing this diet season. Does the fall of the largest weight loss chain in the country portend a turning tide on the national dieting pasttime?

Defrauded weight loss consumers can contract their Attorney General offices:

Missouri Attorney General, Jay Nixon, Consumer Protection Hotline, 800/392-8222 or www.ago.mo.gov

New York Attorney General, Andrew Cuomo, 800/771-7755 or www.oag.state.ny.us

New York Consumer Protection Board, 800/697-1220 or www.nysconsumer.gov

Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett, 877/888-4877 or www.attorneygeneral.gov

Florida State Consumer Protection Office, 800/HELP-FLA or www.800helpfla.com

Maryland Attorney General, Douglas Gansier, Consumer Hotline, 888/743-0023 or www.oag.state.md.us

Oregon Attorney General Consumer Hotline, 503/378-4320 (Salem area only), 503/229-5576 (Portland area only) or statewide at 877/877-9392 or www.doj.state.or.us

Washington Attorney General Consumer Resource Center, 800/551-4636 or www.atg.wa.gov

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