Photo: Breno Peck
Will the Acai berry scam ever just go away? The FTC has taken yet another bogus company to task for lying to consumers about the supposedly fat-defying health benefits of the Brazilian berry.
Once again, the culprits baited people by advertising their products as if they were backed by celebs like Rachel Ray and Oprah Winfrey.
Phoenix-based Central Coast Nutraceuticals, Inc. will pay $1.5 million back to consumers it lured into signing up for a “free” introductory offer for an Acai berry supplement that wound up charging them for months afterward without their consent.
The company was one of a handful targeted in a 2010 complaint by the FTC. The companies allegedly claimed their product would spur weight loss and make users’ colons squeaky clean.
But after consumers received their first free product, they were automatically charged from $40 to $60 by the companies.
Graham D. Gibson, one of the individuals named in the suit, has agreed to fork over his entire investment account, $500,000 after mortgaging his Phoenix, Ariz. home and to give up his stake in a Hawaiian vacation property.
Here’s the deal about the Acai berry:
There are literally no clinical studies that support claims saying this thing will make you live longer, help you fly, smooth your crow’s feet or anything else. But it’s a huge food staple in Central and South America, especially among the poor, who rely on its protein-packed nutrients.
The Acai berry scam grabbed headlines in 2009 as one of the Better Business Bureau’s “Top 10 Scams and Rip-Offs.”
If you want to know more about the perils of free offers, see “Free Trials” Aren’t Always Free, Miracle Health Claims: Add a Dose of scepticism, and Weight Loss Promises, by the FTC.