Green Coffee Bean Extract Sellers Charged with Using Fake News Sites and Bogus Weight Loss Claims
The Federal Trade Commission has sued an operation selling green coffee bean extract as a dietary supplement for weight loss, alleging it made false and deceptive claims and used fake new sites and phony consumer endorsements to sell the product.
Named in the complaint are NPB Advertising, Inc., which also does business as Pure Green Coffee; Nationwide Ventures, LLC; Olympus Advertising, Inc.; JMD Advertising, Inc; Signature Group, LLC; Nicholas Scott Congleton; and Paul Daniel Pascual.
According to the FTC complaint, green coffee bean extract for weight loss began to become popularized after it was called “the magic weight loss cure for every body type” on a syndicated television show. A discussion on the show referenced a study that purportedly supported the claim, but no specific brand of green coffee extract was recommended.
The following May, the defendants allegedly began advertising and selling Pure Green Coffee, a dietary supplement purporting to contain green coffee bean extract. The FTC says that since then more than 536,000 bottles of Pure Green Coffee have been sold for as much as $48 plus shipping and handling charges for a one-month supply.
The FTC alleges that they marketed the dietary supplement through ads on their own web sites that featured clips from the television show, supposed consumer endorsements and so-called clinical proof that people using the product could see rapid weight loss without changing their diet or exercise habits. The defendants also ran paid search engine ads that contained false weight loss claims.
In addition to the allegedly false and deceptive weight loss claims on these web sites, the FTC complaint alleges the defendants made similar claims on web sites designed to look like legitimate news sites or blogs, but were in fact ads, and on “fake news” sites run by affiliate marketers who were paid to advertise Pure Green Coffee. The fake news sites used mastheads of phony news organizations, as well as the logos of actual news organizations, including CNN and MSNBC.
The FTC complaint also charges the defendants with deceptively failing to disclose that consumers who endorsed the supplement had received it for free and were paid to provide a video testimonial.