Internet marketers of acai berry weight-loss pills and colon cleansers will pay $1.5 million to settle charges of deceptive advertising and unfair billing, the Federal Trade Commission announced today.
The Phoenix-based Central Coast Nutraceuticals marketed acai berry supplements, colon cleansers, and other products using allegedly fraudulent free trial offers and phony endorsements from Oprah Winfrey and Rachael Ray. The company will pay $1.5 million as part of a settlement with the FTC, and the money will be made available for consumer refunds.
The settlement does not constitute an admission by Central Coast Nutraceuticals that the law has been violated.
The FTC complaint alleged that two individuals and five related companies deceptively claimed that their Acai Pure supplement would cause rapid and substantial weight loss, and that their Colotox colon cleanser would prevent colon cancer. Also, despite claiming to offer a "free" trial for a nominal fee and full refunds upon request, the defendants allegedly repeatedly made unauthorized charges to consumers' bank accounts, and made it all but impossible to avoid paying full price for the products, which typically cost about $40 to $60.
The settlement effectively bans the defendants from selling any products or services with a negative option feature, among several other stipulations in regard to false advertising claims and unfair billing practices. The defendants are also required to monitor affiliate marketers selling products or services on their behalf, to ensure that they comply with the order.
We've said before that the claims of acai berry juice might be just hype, and warned that although the berries may be high in antioxidants, there is little evidence that they have special weight-loss or other such powers that you can often touted in ads on the Internet.