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Better Business Bureau warns of weight loss grant program

Better Business Bureau warns Canadians of weight loss grants
Weight loss grants programs advertise a chance to get reimbursed for up to 80 per cent the cost. As Alicia Draus reports, many are complaining their cheque never came.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning consumers about the a weight loss program that claims to offer reimbursement for consumers who sign up through an accredited practitioner or weight loss company.

In a news release, the BBB’s Atlantic provinces division said they are “warning Canadians to proceed with caution when dealing with the Weight Loss Grants Organization (WLGO).”

READ MORE: Weight Loss Grants posts customer health information without consent

According to the BBB, many consumers are complaining their grants are being denied.

“A few of those reasons were the organizations was claiming that people were falsifying doctors’ signatures, other people were saying they were denied grants because they finished the program too early,” said Kristin Mathews with the BBB.

Dartmouth resident Shannon MacLean is one of those who filed a complaint.

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“The rules they gave me when I started on were very different from the rules they gave me at the very end,” she said.

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After being diagnosed with diabetes, MacLean set out to lose weight. She learned about the weight loss grant program through a radio advertisement, and then again through the Eat Simple weight loss program she was considering.

“This seemed like a win-win,” she said. “It would be motivational, I’d have an end goal, but also at the end I would get back so much of the money.”

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So she signed up for Eat Simple, a one-on-one program with a nutritionist, to the cost of about $3,000 and then applied to the weight loss grants program, with the goal of losing 45 pounds within 10 months. MacLean says WLGO told her it was better to set a goal of 18 months, but that she could complete it at any point, so she got started.

“It was a lot of hard work, it was a lot of very significant changes in my life,” said MacLean, “but I think it was about nine months into the program that I reached my goal.”

After reaching her goal she collected the required paperwork from her doctor and got set to submit a claim to WLGO, but she says she was then told she’d have to wait the full 18 months. She challenged that, saying that she was told she could submit her claim as soon as she reached her goal, but after sorting out that issue she still had problems.

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“In one spot it said you had to send a thank you letter, in another spot it said a signed thank you letter, I thought it was a form I had to sign,” she said.

Unable to find the form online, MacLean says she submitted the rest of her documents and then contacted WLGO. The company informed her it wasn’t a form, she was required to write her own thank you letter and sign it and then provide it to the company.

When MacLean tried to submit the letter she was told it was too late, she had already submitted her documents and because the letter was missing, her claim was denied.

“I think what they’ve been doing is purposefully making people fail,” she said.

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Erin Power with Eat Simple says MacLean isn’t her only client who had these challenges. Last year she took on nine new clients through the program, and only one was successful in receiving her refund. Power says she is no longer taking on new clients through that program, but other companies are and the weight loss grant program continues to accept new clients.

WLGO now has an ‘F’ rating with the BBB which has opened an investigation into the organization as well as Dalewood Health and Wellness, which WLGO refers clients to.

“They claimed to have no connection but we actually found they were operating out of the same mail box,” said Matthews.

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“It’s ethical and questionable, but at the same time it’s not a scam.”

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BBB is also warning consumers that the organization has also begun to operate under several different names;

  • Trillium Weight Loss
  • Vitality Health Grants
  • Subsidian.org
  • Oral Aesthetic Advocacy Group
  • OAAG Canada Inc

WLGO did not respond to a request for comment, but has posted an open letter to their website.

“Our objective was never to avoid paying legitimate grant claims. Unfortunately, we experienced an insurmountable amount of bogus grant requests and felt that we needed to mitigate our risk,” the letter reads.

The letter also says that customers who feel they were unfairly rejected have until June 15 to file a request to have their file re-reviewed and that in some circumstances they can approve the grant by having the missing or incomplete documents provided and will give customers until June 30 to provide such items.