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FTC tells Acai Berry Weight-Loss Pills/Colon Cleansers to Stop Deceptive Advertising
A U.S. district court has ordered the marketers of acai berry supplements, “colon cleansers,” and other products to temporarily halt an Internet sales scheme that allegedly scammed consumers out of $30 million or more in 2009 alone through deceptive advertising and unfair billing practices. The FTC will seek a permanent prohibition. Since 2007, victimized consumers have flooded law enforcement agencies and the Better Business Bureau with more than 2,800 complaints about the company.
Acai berry supplements, derived from acai palm trees that are native to Central and South America, have become popular in recent years. Last year, the Better Business Bureau named fake “free” trial offers – including those for acai supplements offered by the defendants in this case – as one of the “Top 10 Scams and Rip Offs of 2009.”
“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.”
The court order halts the allegedly illegal conduct of Central Coast Nutraceuticals, Inc., imposes an asset freeze, and appoints a temporary receiver over CCN and several related companies, while the FTC moves forward with its case to stop the company’s bogus health claims and other deceptive and unfair conduct.
The FTC charged CCN, two individuals, and four related companies with multiple violations, including deceptively advertising AcaiPure, an acai berry supplement, as a weight-loss product, and Colopure, a colon cleansing supplement, as an aid for preventing cancer.
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