A federal judge has frozen the assets of Central Coast Nutraceuticals and other related companies accused of tricking online consumers into buying acai berry supplements by promising “free” trials, while boasting of backing from Rachel Ray and Oprah Winfrey.
It’s all bogus, says the Federal Trade Commission, which requested the move.
U.S. District Court Judge Charles Norgle, sitting in Illinois, also ordered the marketers to give refunds to customers who request them and to stop faking the celebrity endorsements for the acai products, which were being falsely touted as fast weight-loss solutions.
CCN and its partners “deceived consumers across the country out of tens of millions of dollars” by offering a “risk-free” 30-day supply of products for a shipping fee of just $4.95, then automatically charging memberships of nearly $65 a month, the FCC said in its court filing.
Several of the customers didn‘t become aware of the memberships until they‘d already gotten their second shipment, federal authorities allege.
By then, the companies “already charged consumers not only for the allegedly ‘free’ or ‘risk free’ trial shipment, but also for this second shipment,” the FCC said.
If that weren’t enough, federal authorities allege, cancelling memberships was extremely difficult.
The practice is known as a “continuity plan” or “negative option plan,” which defaults you into membership unless you opt out — kind of like Facebook, only with huge fees attached.
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