Slimdown Showdown: Weight Watchers Sues Jenny Craig

Lawsuit claims Jenny Craig ads featuring Valerie Bertinelli are "deceptive."

ByABC News via logo
January 21, 2010, 9:50 AM

Jan. 21, 2010— -- Another shot was fired in the heavyweight battle of the bulge-busters when the diet company Weight Watchers this week filed a lawsuit against one of its top competitors, Jenny Craig, calling its ads misleading.

Those weight loss ads are just about everywhere you look these days, featuring skinny celebrities like Valerie Bertinelli, Marie Osmond and Jenny McCarthy, pitching skinny bodies.

Weight loss is a $40 billion industry in the U.S., and the new Jenny Craig ad has the two weight loss giants squaring off.

Jenny Craig's ad featuring Bertinelli claims its weight loss program is more than twice as effective as its main rival.

"Jenny's delicious cuisine and the support of your personal consultant make all the difference, "Bertinelli, who lost 49 pounds on Jenny Craig, says in the commercial. "Jenny Craig clients lost, on average, over twice as much weight as those on the largest weight loss program."

Those claims have Weight Watchers fighting mad. The company says Jenny Craig's so-called science is a big fat lie.

"The claims that they are using in that advertising was just patently deceptive," said David Kirchhoff, the president of Weight Watchers International.

And now Weight Watchers is taking the fight to court.

"They compared a study they did this year, for one purpose, to a study we did 10 years ago," Kirchhoff said.

The Jenny Craig ads never mention Weight Watchers by name, but Kirchhoff says "everybody knew. You say the world's leading weight loss company; everybody knows who you are talking about."

Jenny Craig stands behind its message, and their science.

"We believe that when the court finally hears all of the evidence and our record is fully developed that the court will side with us and agree with us that our advertising claims are truthful," Lewis Rose, Jenny Craig's attorney and a partner at Kelley, Drye and Warren, said.