In response to a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) lawsuit, a federal district court judge in Chicago has frozen the assets of Central Coast Nutraceuticals, an Arizona company that offers “free” samples of açai (ah-sah-EE) berry products marketed as weight loss supplements.
According to the pleadings, the company offered a “risk-free” 30-day trial of AcaiPure and Colopure after customers paid the $4.95 shipping fee and then enrolled them in a monthly plan that costs as much as $64.90 per month. Customers were often unaware of their enrollment in the program until they received the second shipment, and canceling subscriptions was not easy, according to the FTC. This type of “continuity plan” or “negative option plan” was specifically targeted by the FTC last year as a deceptive business practice.
According to the FTC, aside from making false claims regarding the products’ effectiveness regarding weight loss and colon cleansing, the company has also falsely claimed that the products are endorsed by Oprah Winfrey and Rachel Ray. In addition to freezing assets, the court has also instructed the company to stop sales, return money to those requesting refunds, and cease using false celebrity testimonials to sell products.
Up to one million American consumers may have been taken in by the offer of free açai berry products. Other companies named in the lawsuit include Fit for Life LLC, Health and Beauty Solutions LLC, iLife Health and Wellness LLC, and Simply Naturals LLC.
Have you had any experience with such trial offers as a business owner and/or consumer?