Friday, February 24th 2006
Directors of an Auckland company who made extravagant claims for a popular weight-loss supplement have come under blistering attack in a District Court judgment.
Judge Lindsay Moore said benefits attributed to Zenith Corporation's Body Enhancer products, which sells for $78 a bottle, were bogus.
"The product Body Enhancer has been proved beyond reasonable doubt not to be suitable for any of the purposes claimed and not to confer upon it users any of the benefits alleged," he said in a 98-page decision released yesterday from the Auckland District Court.
Judge Moore said director Winston Gallot has been comprehensively discredited and his wife, Sylvia, made claims which were blatantly false.
He found the company made 26 breaches of the Fair Trading Act in its advertising. A date for sentencing has yet to be fixed.
Mr and Mrs Gallot could not be reached for comment last night at their Castor Bay home, where Zenith Corporation is based.
Nor could their lawyer, John Katz, QC, who is overseas.
But Mr Katz told the court a year ago that evidence substantiated claims in support of the product and Zenith had invested heavily in what it genuinely believed to be a product that worked. "We are not dealing with a quack remedy."
Alternatively, the company had relied on information supplied by the product's manufacturer.
Commerce Commission lawyers Mark Woolford and Todd Simmonds said the firm made false and misleading claims in advertising and on radio.
Body Enhancer was claimed to assist fat burning, muscle growth, liver detoxification and prevention of collagen depletion. It was also said to help build bones and tendon cells, heal cartilage, strengthen joints and heart muscles, break down fat and control appetite.
One scientist told the judge drinking eight glasses of water a day and not eating three hours before sleep would "quite possibly" promote weight loss by itself.
Judge Moore said sales ran into millions of dollars.
Some people who brought Body Enhancer would also have changed their lifestyles, causing weight loss.
He said the Gallots were shrewd operators.
"They saw, seized on and exploited an opportunity to make very large profits. From that they were not going to be deterred. If charm seemed likely to work, they used charm; if lies seemed likely to work, they used lies; if aggression seemed likely to work, there was no shortage of that."
Mr Gallot was described as a man of considerable intelligence, style and charm, but he was exposed as "calculatedly dishonest" and blamed everyone but himself.
"By the time cross-examination was complete he seemed to have aged noticeably, all the spring had gone out of him," the judge said.
Judge Moore referred to a "succession of blatant untruths" by Mrs Gallot in trying to launch Body Enhancer in Britain.
She claimed in a letter that there had been various approvals in New Zealand for the product, but the judge said that was a "deliberate lie"
Zenith's website says the company was established in 1994 and worked closely with an unnamed New Zealand research laboratory to develop, manufacture and market natural and functional health and nutritional products.
Body Enhancer, with which it launched the business, was a "revolutionary product" helping the body to build lean muscle and burn fat.
It was closely followed by Bee V Balm; a pain-reliever the website said had had outstanding success.
Contributors to an online forum on another website, www.foodlovers.co.nz, did not share Zenith's enthusiasm for Body Enhancer.
"I tried Body Enhancer for six months and gained weight," said one.
Another said she had a friend who used it after giving up smoking "and piled on the weight," despite drinking large amounts of water stipulated by Zenith and walking 3km a day.
She rang the firm twice "and they just kept fobbing her off"
Source; Weekend Herald, 4 June 2005
Footnote from Ideal Health:
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