Court Issues Ex Parte Temporary Restraining Order to Halt the Marketing of Acai Berry Weight-Loss Pills and Colon Cleansers

August 17, 2010

By Carrie S. Martin

Yesterday, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) held a press conference in Chicago to announce a lawsuit against several companies, including Central Coast Nutraceuticals, iLife, Simply Naturals, Fit for Life, and Health and Beauty, for their marketing of acai berry weight-loss supplements and “colon cleansing” supplements in an allegedly false and defective manner.  The FTC also announced that the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, granted the FTC’s request for a temporary restraining order on August 6, 2010, requiring the companies to halt their Internet sales and freezing their assets.  

In the Complaint, the FTC states that the products, which were offered to consumers on a “free trial,” “risk free,” or “trial” basis with only a nominal charge, were not free.  Instead, the FTC alleges that the defendants charged consumers for various hidden and undisclosed costs, made it difficult to cancel during the trial period, and enrolled consumers into paying “membership” programs during the trial period that required affirmative action by the consumers to avoid and/or cancel.

The Complaint also states that products such as AcaiPure were advertised as inducing rapid and substantial weight loss and Colopure as preventing colon cancer, both without substantiation; and the companies falsely implied that their products were used or endorsed by celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey and Rachael Ray.

According to the FTC, since 2007, consumers have filed more than 2800 complaints with law enforcement agencies and the Better Business Bureau about these practices.  In addition, the FTC alleges that the companies scammed consumers out of $30 million or more in 2009.  The FTC plans to seek a permanent injunction against the defendants.