By Jim Donovan: Two online marketers have agreed to settlements with the Federal Trade Commission that will permanently halt their allegedly deceptive practice of using fake news websites to promote acai berry supplements and so-called “colon cleansers” with deceptive claims that consumers could use them to lose weight.
According to the FTC, under the settlement Intermark Communications Inc., which does business under the name Copeac, will pay more than $1.3 million. In the second case, Coulomb Media Inc, and Cody Low, will pay out a settelment of $170,000 in cash.
The two settlements are part of the FTC’s ongoing crackdown on bogus health claims. The agency alleged that their websites were designed to falsely appear as if they were part of legitimate news organizations, but were actually nothing more than advertisements deceptively enticing consumers to buy the featured acai berry weight-loss products from online merchants.
With titles such as “News 6 News Alerts,” “Health News Health Alerts,” or “Health 5 Beat Health News,” the sites often falsely represented that the reports they carried had been seen on major media outlets such as ABC, Fox News, CBS, CNN, USA Today, and Consumer Reports. Investigative-sounding headlines presented stories that purported to document a reporter’s first-hand experience with acai berry supplements – typically claiming to have lost 25 pounds in four weeks, according to the FTC complaints.
NOTE: These consent decrees are for settlement purposes only and do not constitute an admission by the defendant that the law has been violated. Consent decrees have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.