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GREEN & WEIGHT WATCHERS ANNOUNCE 'WEIGHT LOSS BILL OF RIGHTS' AT OVER 1,200 LOCATIONS

 GREEN & WEIGHT WATCHERS ANNOUNCE 'WEIGHT LOSS
 BILL OF RIGHTS' AT OVER 1,200 LOCATIONS
 NEW YORK, Sept. 1 /PRNewswire/ -- Consumer Affairs Commissioner Mark Green today applauded the announcement of Weight Watchers International that it will voluntarily post New York City's "Consumer Bill of Rights" at all its locations nationwide. Green simultaneously urged 42 state attorneys general and consumer officials to advocate laws in their jurisdictions similar to that of New York City.
 The city regulation, which is the first of its kind in the nation, was adopted in May, 1992. It requires all weight-loss centers to post and distribute specific information about diet programs to potential customers.
 At a joint press conference with Charles M. Berger, Weight Watchers International chairman, Green said, "Since potential dieters need to know more before they sign up to slim down, New York City in May required all weight-loss centers to post and hand out a 'Weight Loss Consumer Bill of Rights.' So I applaud Weight Watchers for voluntarily adopting our Consumer Bills of Rights in all its locations nationally. Their initiative is a major breakthrough for this much-investigated and criticized industry. If Weight Watchers understands that more disclosure is good for people and for business, why can't the rest of the industry?"
 Berger said: "The 'Weight Loss Consumer Bill of Rights' is consistent with Weight Watchers' values, and as the industry leader, we're proud to promote these principles as part of our on-going commitment to helping consumers make an informed choice."
 Green, discussing his letter to 42 state attorneys general and consumer officials, said: "With millions of Americans going to weight- loss centers, why should only New York City dieters and Weight Watchers' customers have this protection?"
 "In fact," the letter said, "people signing up with 'rapid weight- loss' programs need this 'Bill of Rights' even more than those who join Weight Watchers. The real problem here," Green's letter to the consumer officials added, "is that people hand over thousands of dollars to these rapid weight-loss centers precisely because they falsely promise permanent results and hide costs and health risks. For most people, the results are as enduring as a castle in the sand. Indeed, the industry seems to operate on the basis of 'profitable failure' -- i.e., when the majority of dieters don't keep off the weight they lose, they blame themselves for this failure and invariably come back to try again and again. So, unlike most defective products, failure here leads to repeat purchases."
 The New York City regulation requires city weight-loss centers to post a sign in every room where a sales presentation is made that warns of potential health risks and tells potential clients they have a right to know complete costs and duration of the diet program, and that only permanent lifestyle changes will keep the weight off. Green adopted the Truth-in-Dieting regulations, which has the force of law, after his department conducted an undercover investigation of commercial weight- loss centers and found that many cover up health risks, and engage in quackery and high-pressure sales tactics to snare clients. The commissioner sent a report on the investigation -- A Weighty Issue: Dangers and Deceptions of the Weight-Loss Industry -- to Janet Stieger, chair of the Federal Trade Commission, in June 1991, and urged that "the FTC take remedial action against this national problem."
 "If the Federal Government won't or can't act to protect millions of weight-loss consumers, then it's up to local and state officials to fill this void," Green said. "That's why I'm today contacting such officials."
 -0- 9/1/92
 /CONTACT: Linda Sachs of New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, 212-487-4270/ CO: New York City Department of Consumer Affairs; Weight Watchers
 International ST: New York IN: SU:


SM-LR -- NY009 -- 5342 09/01/92 10:31 EDT
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Date:Sep 1, 1992
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