Oprah And Rachel Ray Assist The Federal Trade Commission In Taking Down Allegedly Deceptive Acai Marketers
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has obtained a court order against the Arizonabased marketers of Acai dietary supplements, Central Coast Nutraceuticals, Inc, also known as CCN. The order prohibits sales of CCNs products including the weight-loss product AcaiPure and a “colon cleanser” touted to prevent cancer, but which the FTC has said is essentially a “run-of-the-mill” laxative. Also named in the FTCs complaint were CCNs affiliated companies and personnel: iLife Health and Wellness, Simply Naturals, Fit for Life, , Health and Beauty Solutions, Graham D. Gibson, and Michael A. McKenzy.
The FTC alleged that a big part of the deception centered on bogus “free trial” offers and corrupt billing practices in which “numerous unauthorized charges” were made to customers credit-cards and debit cards. Consumers were offered free products to “try” but did not receive adequate disclosure form CCN that they would be automatically enrolled in a membership program, charged for additional products. and that CCN would continue to charge them under their memberships until such time as the consumer opted out. Such practices are in violation of the FTC Act and the Electronic Fund Transfer Act.
Other deceptive practices noted in the complaint included a plethora of unsupported health claims by CCN. AcaiPures weight-loss claims supposedly were backed by “double-blind, placebo-controlled weight loss studies” which turned out to be nonexistent. Consumers were also told that “most consumers taking AcaiPure report weight loss anywhere from 10-25 pounds in the first month,” a claim that similarly had no support. Another CCN unsubstantiated claim was that Colopure could help prevent colon cancer.
Lastly, the Commission alleged that the companies engaged in false celebrity endorsements by using the names and likeness of Oprah Winfrey and Rachael Ray to promote the products. Both Winfrey and Ray provided statements to the FTC that they have no involvement with the products, did not use the products and do not endorse the product.
The FTC reported that it had received over 2,800 complaints about this business and believes that consumers were duped out of at least $100 million dollars since 2009.
The temporary restraining order is just the first step in the FTCs law suit against CCN. It is still unknown if criminal charges will be levied as in addition to the civil penalties being sought. In addition, the FTC continues to seek a permanent injunction against CCN and its affiliated companies.
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