Weight-Loss Supplement Company that Threatened to Sue for Bad Reviews, Sued by FTC
A supplement company that threatened to sue its customers for leaving bad reviews is being sued by a federal regulator.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is suing Roca Labs and its owners for making baseless claims about the effectiveness of its products and for threatening to enforce gag clauses to prevent customers from posting online negative reviews and testimonials.
The company sells weight-loss supplements that claim to be a safe alternative to invasive gastric bypass surgery and said users had a 90 percent success rate in achieving substantial weight loss. The FTC says that Roca Labs claimed that users could lose as much as 21 pounds in one month.
Roca Lab's powders didn't come cheap. A three-to-four month supply started at $480. The company sold at least $20 million worth of its miracle powder since 2010.
Despite marketing claims that the products worked, the company's own terms and conditions stated that, "No clinical study has been performed on this product," and its claims were based on the effectiveness of the individual ingredients.
As part of its marking ploy, the company used testimonials and supposed third-party reviews to illustrate the product's success. Roca Labs solicited success videos from customers by offering to pay 50 percent of the product's price for providing positive reviews.
Users who posted negative reviews were threatened with lawsuits for violating gag clause provisions and were told they had to pay the full price for the products.
According to the FTC filing, the terms and conditions stated:
You agree that regardless of your personal experience with RL, you will not disparage RL and/or any of its employees, products or services. This means that you will not speak, publish, cause to be published, print, review, blog, or otherwise write negatively about RL, or its products or employees in any way. This encompasses all forms of media, including and especially the internet. This paragraph is to protect RL and its current and future customers from the harm of libelous or slanderous content in any form, and thus, your acceptance of the [Terms] prohibits you from taking any action that negatively impacts RL, its reputation, products, services, management, or employees.
According to TechDirt.com the company has a sordid history of suing customers, websites, reporters and its own lawyers.
The company seems to have agreed to a temporary restraining order and a message on the Roca Labs website says the site undergoing temporary maintenance and no new customers will be accepted.
In addition to making unsubstantiated claims about its products and threatening to sue it customers, the FTC says that Roca labs also failed to disclose they compensated users who posted positive reviews and violated consumers' privacy by disclosing personal health information to payment processors, banks and in public court filings.
More information about the case can be found on the FTC website.