08/17/2010 // West Palm Beach, FL, USA // Tara Monks // Tara Monks
Chicago, IL – The Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit against an Internet provider of a popular acai berry-based weight loss product, claiming the companies defrauded millions of customers seeking the “free trial” that was offered through fake celebrity endorsements, as reported by MSNBC. The lawsuit was filed Thursday, August 5, 2010, but remained sealed until Thursday, August 12.
The FTC announced Monday, August 16, that the firms solicited free trials to customers, only to sign them up for contracts that pulled $45 to $65 a month out of their accounts, bilking consumers “out of up to $100 million.”
A federal judge froze the assets of Central Coast Nutraceuticals Inc, of Phoenix, and ordered the company and its executives, Graham D. Givson, 34, and Michael A. McKenzy, 27, to stop making false claims. Other companies operating out of the same address have been listed as defendants as well.
The Federal Trade Commission has listed a series of complaints under the lawsuit, including the knowledge that the pills are “nothing but a laxative,” which is not what the company’s website portrays. The FTC says AcaiPure and Colopure do not work for weight loss or cancer prevention, as the company claims. The FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection Director David Vladeck even reported that it is uncertain how much, if any at all, of the berry is in the products.
Both Oprah Winfrey and Rachel Ray, who were falsely portrayed as advocates of the supplements, issued statements on their positions. Ray reported, “I did not approve or agree to the use of my name or my image on this website,” adding that she does not endorse any acai berry products.
Winfrey’s Harpo Inc., said in a statement, “Ms. Oprah Winfrey has never endorsed any acai berry supplement or acai berry related product by name.”
The Better Business Bureau alerted consumers to the firm’s deceptive practices last year.
The FTC’s investigation was spurred by more than 2,800 complaints about the company since 2007.
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