DeMarrais: FTC goes after bogus acai ads

Influenced to try acai berry supplements to lose weight, based on online news stories touting their benefits?

Claims made by purported online news sites for acai berry supplements are false, the government says.

Don’t believe them.

Unethical marketers have created fake news sites – complete with logos of the major media (used without permission) – to sell acai supplements to unsuspecting consumers, the Federal Trade Commission said on Tuesday in announcing lawsuits against 10 companies.

The “reporters” on these sites supposedly have done independent evaluations of acai berry supplements, and claim that the products lead to major weight loss in a short period of time with no diet or exercise.

But claims of losing 25 pounds in four weeks are not based on any tests, and the results “are impossible to achieve,” said Charles Harwood, the FTC’s deputy director of consumer protection.

Likewise, the consumer testimonials are “completely fabricated,” Harwood said during a news conference from Chicago.

“Nearly everything about the websites are false and deceptive,” he said.

The websites are operated by third-party marketers who have been paid more than $10 million to place the ads, the FTC said.

Although the 10 companies sued by the FTC – including Circa Direct LLC of Margate City in Atlantic County – operate separately, they often used the same wording, down to the same typographical errors.

Several even use the same photo of a French reporter – used without her permission, the FTC says – but identify her by different names on different sites.

“They appear to be copying each other,” Harwood told me.

The suits come less than a year after the FTC sued marketers of acai berry supplements for deceptive advertising and unfair billing practices.

The acai berry – pronounced ah-SIGH-ee – is an inch-long reddish-purple fruit that is native to Central and South America.

An antioxidant, it has grown in popularity as a diet aid. Type “acai berry” into a Google search, and you get 17.5 million hits!

While these suits involved acai products, they are likely to be templates for FTC action against other phony newscasts for other products, including work-at-home kits, Harwood said.

For more information on the suits: ftc.gov/opa/2011/04/fakenews.shtm

Price fixing

Has manipulation replaced the law of supply and demand in the energy market? That was my reaction to a story that moved on the Bloomberg wire last week.

“Crude oil rose after a U.S. government report showed inventories of gasoline plunged the most in 12 years as demand climbed and refineries idled units. Futures advanced 0.8 percent after the Energy Department said gasoline supplies dropped 7 million barrels … Refineries operated at 81.4 percent of capacity, down 3 percentage points from the prior week.”

In other words, the price of crude oil went up — and gasoline prices followed — because the oil companies cut back production, even as demand increased.

Apr 20th, 2011 | Posted in Weight Loss
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