FTC Cracks Down on “Fake” News Sites Marketing Acai Weight-Loss Products

April 22, 2011

Websites posing as news sites to promote acai-based weight-loss products are now facing FTC action.

Websites posing as news sites to promote acai-based weight-loss products are now facing FTC action. On Tuesday, the FTC filed 10 complaints against operations engaging in such actions. The agency says, “The FTC seeks to permanently stop this misleading practice and has asked courts to freeze the operations’ assets pending trial.”

The FTC says that the websites were made to sound like legitimate news sources, posting titles such as “News 6 News Alerts” or “Health News Health Alerts.” Moreover, the agency alleges, the sites pretended to carry the endorsement of legitimate news outlets such as ABC, Fox News, CBS, CNN, USA Today, and Consumer Reports by featuring the names and logos of those networks. Allegedly, one website’s article even claimed to document a reporter’s firsthand experience with acai supplements, with the reporter claiming to have lost 25 pounds in four weeks.

Moreover, the sites allegedly made false or unsupported claims that acai will cause rapid and substantial weight loss. Furthermore, the FTC alleges that article comments posted on the websites were not in fact independent statements from ordinary consumers, although no such disclosures were made on the websites.

“Almost everything about these sites is fake,” said David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The weight-loss results, the so-called investigations, the reporters, the consumer testimonials, and the attempt to portray an objective, journalistic endeavor.”

The agency has asked the courts to permanently bar the allegedly deceptive claims and to require the companies to refund money to customers who purchased products from those sites.