The Abtronic is an electronic muscle stimulation device. The makers of the device are a company called Thane in various incarnations around the world.
Thane's late-night infomercials promise (or, in Canada, used to promise) a "trim, muscular physique," without doing any exercise!
A study and subsequent ruling by Canada’s Competition Tribunal forced Thane Direct Canada to halt both the claims and the sale of the products. The Tribunal found the abtronic to be useless as a muscle-toning agent and Thane's claims to be "materialy false and/or misleading" and "not based on adequate or proper tests."
Thane Direct Canada Inc., has agreed to refund CDN $120 to thousands of customers. In addition, Thane was fined CDN $75,000 and signed a consent agreement not to sell the items again. The agreement has force for 10 years from the signing in December 2002.
"Consumers are particularly vulnerable when it comes to unsubstantiated product performance claims, and more specifically when the claims relate to sensitive issues such as weight loss and physical appearance," said Raymond Pierce, Deputy Commissioner, Competition Bureau
The Tribunal cites many examples of "materialy false and/or misleading", including:
- "... lose inches around the waist and midsection."
- "... makes your stomach flatter."
- "... get rid of that cellulite and flabbiness around your thighs."
- "... gives you the results of 600 sit-ups in just 10 minutes without any effort."
- "... slims, trims and firms your upper abs, your lower abs and/or your love handles."
- "... develop that six-pack you've always wanted."
- "Electronic stimulation itself ... increased abdominal muscle strength by 41 percent. Exercise alone accounted for only a 6 percent increase."
- "That proves you get better results by use of the Abtronic Fitness System whether you use it as a supplement to your normal or workout or just by itself."
More can be seen in Appendix A of the report at:
Thane Direct Canada has been required to broadcast the corrective notice shown below on Canadian TV. The company has complied, and the notice appears in white text on a simple black background, where it scrolls by at high speed while a pitchman reads it as quickly as he can. It is also posted on Thane's Canadian website at
http://www.thane.ca/abtronicnotice.php. The full notice follows:
CORRECTIVE NOTICE RE ABTRONIC
The Commissioner of Competition has concluded that certain representations made by Thane Direct Canada Inc. (“Thane Canada”) for the promotion of the Abtronic and Abtronic Pro constitute reviewable conduct under paragraph 74.01(1)(a) ("false or misleading representation") and paragraph 74.01(1)(b) ("adequate and proper test") of the deceptive marketing practices provisions of the Competition Act.
The Commissioner believes that these representations gave the general impression that the devices, without the need for physical exercise:
- would cause weight loss
- would provide well-defined abdominal muscles.
Thane Canada has agreed to discontinue the sale of the Abtronic and Abtronic Pro until such time as the Commissioner agrees that any representations regarding the performance of such product are based on adequate and proper tests. (Consent Agreement: http://www.ct-tc.gc.ca/english/cases/ct-2002-007/0001a.pdf).
Any customer who has purchased the device in Canada directly from Thane Canada through its web site or television advertising may obtain a refund of the purchase price by sending back their Abtronic or Abtronic Pro, with original packaging if available, to Thane Direct Canada Inc., 101 Canarctic Drive, North York, Ontario, M3J 3N1.
Any customer who has purchased the Thane device in Canada from one of Thane Canada’s authorized resellers may obtain a refund of the purchase price by sending back their Abtronic or Abtronic Pro, with original packaging if available, to the same address with proof of purchase.
For more information, please
or write to the Customer Service Department at:
Thane Direct Canada Inc.
Thane asks that you use the original packaging and be sure to include all components. They note that "Proof of purchase is required ... from any source other than Thane’s television advertising and Thane’s website (www.thane.ca)."
Thane continues to sell other products in Canada, such as the Ab Swing exercise unit as demonstrated by Hunter Tylo, "Daytime Drama Celebrity and Mother of 4."
The AbTronic is still available for sale in other countries. For example, the UK website at http://www.abtronics.co.uk/start.htm continues to make all the same claims dismissed by the Canadian Competition Bureau, such as: "The AbTronic tones and tightens your upper abs, lower abs and love handles with no sweat at all!. ... Say good bye to strenuos, time-consuming workouts. With the AbTronic, your muscles are moving but you are not." and "Ten minutes on the AbTronic is the equivalent of 600 situps!"