Feds red-light alleged green coffee bean scams


Defendants "used nearly every trick in the book," FTC charges

A U.S. district court judge has issued an order that temporarily stops pitches for green coffee bean extract and other Pure Simple dietary supplements. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says the pitches for Pure Simple products are deceptive, making deceptive health claims and offering "free" trials that are anything but free.

"I purchased a 3 month supply of 'Green Coffee Extract' and along with it came a 'free' sample of a probiotic," said Warren of Waterville, Ohio, in a complaint to ConsumerAffairs. Warren said he canceled the green coffee extract but continued getting shipments and being billed for the probiotic.

"When I called customer service they acknowledged that the first bottle was free but since I had not called to cancel the 'free' bottle I had been charged for the remaining several bottles. Why would I need to cancel something that is 'free'"? he asked. 

That's the question the FTC wants answered as well.

This is the first FTC action alleging violations of the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act (ROSCA), which prohibits marketers from charging consumers in an Internet transaction, unless the marketer has clearly disclosed all material terms of the transaction and obtained the consumers’ express informed consent.

“The defendants behind Simple Pure used nearly every trick in the book to deceive consumers,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “They not only deceived consumers about the effectiveness of their products, but also repeatedly debited consumers’ accounts without their approval.”

According to the FTC’s complaint, Health Formulas, LLC, its related entities, and principals (Simple Pure) use telemarketing, the Internet, print, radio, and television advertisements to pitch a variety of dietary supplements and other weight-loss, virility, muscle-building, or skin cream products.

Shed pounds fast

Examples of Simple Pure’s advertising claims include: 1) “Burn fat without diet or exercise”; 2) “Shed pounds fast!” and 3) “Extreme weight loss!” The FTC alleges that the defendants have no basis for the weight-loss claims they make about their products.

In addition, the defendants allegedly trick consumers into disclosing their credit and debit card information, and then enroll them without authorization in a negative option program in which defendants continually charge consumers’ accounts.

The charge for Simple Pure’s weight-loss supplements, with names like Pure Green Coffee Bean Plus and RKG Extreme, typically ranges from $60 to $210 per month. Some consumers were sold additional products that cost between $7.95 and $60.

The FTC charges that the defendants failed to provide the disclosures required for a negative-option program, failed to provide a way for consumers to stop the automatic charges, and also failed to disclose material facts about their refund and cancellation policy.

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