|January 31, 2012|
Previously published on January 26, 2012
On Wednesday, six online marketers agreed to settlements with the Federal Trade Commission ("FTC") that will permanently halt their allegedly deceptive practice of using fake news websites to market acai berry supplements and other weight-loss products.
Last summer, the FTC successfully halted the operation of sites operated by the six marketers. The FTC alleged that websites were designed to look like legitimate news reports, but were in truth commercial advertisements intended to drive consumer purchases of Acai berry-based weight-loss products. The websites often purported that the story related by the “reporter” had run on or in major media outlets such as ABC, Fox News, CBS, CNN, USA Today, and Consumer Reports.
Acai berry supplements are derived from the berries of acai palm trees, which are native to Central and South America. Supplements and other products contacting acai are frequently marketed to consumers as a weight-loss aid.
The settlements require the marketers to make it clear to consumers that their commercial messages are advertisements and not objective journalism, disclose to consumers any material connections they have with merchants, and collectively pay approximately $500,000 to the FTC. The settlements also bar the defendants from making future deceptive claims about health-related or any other products.