FTC clamps down on acai supplement fraud

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Fraud, Federal trade commission

A US district court has issued a restraining order on the marketers of acai dietary supplements and ‘colon cleansing supplements’ for their deceptive marketing and illegal billing practices.

Acting on a complaint from the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois ordered five companies to temporarily halt their sales.

These included acai berry supplements marketed at magic-bullet weight loss products, as well as a colon cleansing supplement sold as an aid for preventing colon cancer.

Violations

The FTC investigation followed almost 3,000 complaints received from consumers, who had faced repeated credit card charges after signing up online for ‘free’ or ‘risk free’ offers to try the products.

FTC also noted deceptive and fraudulent marketing practices, including bogus health claims, references to non-existent supporting science, and scare-mongering statistics about health conditions that the supplements addressed.

Although a complaint from the Commission is not a final ruling that companies have violated the law, it does indicate “reason to believe”​ that this is the case. FTC said it is now seeking a permanent prohibition against the firms in question.

“Too many ‘free’ offers come with strings attached,” ​said David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

“In this case, the defendants promised buyers a ‘risk free’ trial and then illegally billed their credit cards again and again – and again. We estimate that about a million people have fallen victim to this scam.”

As if that weren’t enough, there were fake endorsements from celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Rachael Ray for a product that didn’t work in the first place.”

Charges

FTC charged Central Coast Nutraceuticals (CNN), two individuals and four related companies: iLife Health and Wellness LLC; Simply Naturals LLC; Health and Beauty Solutions LLC; and Fit for Life LLC.

The court order halts the allegedly illegal conduct of CNN, imposes an asset freeze, and appoints a temporary receiver over CCN and the related companies, said FTC in a statement.

The commission will now move forward with its case “to stop the company’s bogus health claims and other deceptive and unfair conduct.”

Related topics: Regulation

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