The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has filed a complaint in a Florida federal court against companies and individuals responsible for the sale and marketing of a weight-loss supplement—Pure Green Coffee—allegedly in violation of the FTC Act. FTC v. NPB Advertising, Inc., No.14-1155 (U.S. Dist. Ct., M.D. Fla., Tampa Div., filed May 15, 2014).
According to the complaint, the product appeared in the marketplace shortly after Mehmet Oz claimed in April 2012 on his TV talk show—“The Dr. Oz Show”—that a study of green coffee extract had shown it to be a “magic weight loss cure.” Explaining that the study of 16 subjects in India underlying the claims was neither valid nor reliable, FTC challenges the defendants’ reliance on the study in Website ads, but does not otherwise highlight that it was the only clinical study on which they relied, a matter at issue in proceedings against beverage maker POM Wonderful. FTC also bases its claims on defendants’ Website ads that (i) include the TV show segment; (ii) purport to be news sites but are fake; (iii) contain testimonials by purported product purchasers, who were actually paid by the defendants to discuss their experience with the product through video; and (iv) fail to disclose that the video testimonials were paid for.
Alleging false or unsubstantiated efficacy claims, false proof claims, failure to disclose material connection (testimonials), and misrepresentations (fake news reports), FTC seeks permanent injunctive relief; redress of consumer injury by rescission or reformation of contracts, restitution, refunds, and disgorgement; as well as costs.