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US FTC Sues Weight-Loss Marketers for Blocking Bad Reviews
Complaint also asserts that company pushes deceptive weight-loss claims
 
Consumers who fail to reach their weight-loss goals with one company’s purported stomach-shrinking powders face threats of litigation and hundreds of dollars in charges if they want to share a negative review of their experience.
 
So alleges the FTC’s complaint against Roca Labs, the Florida-based marketers of a line of weight-loss products touted as a safe and cost-effective alternative to gastric bypass surgery. The complaint alleges “unfair use of non-disparagement provisions,” which are also called “gag clauses.”
 
The FTC also asserts that Roca Labs, whose sales since 2010 top $20 million, lacks scientific evidence for several of its weight-loss claims (which may explain why the company sought to shield itself from bad reviews). The complaint seeks to halt the deceptive advertising and refund customers who purchased the products, which started at $480 for a three-to-four month supply.
 
Negative posters taken to court
 
Roca Labs has done more than just threaten to sue. The company has actually taken customers to court for posting negative comments online, the FTC alleges. Not only that, the FTC claims Roca Labs has also dissuaded customers from telling us how they really feel by threatening to charge customers the “full price” of the discounted products that failed to work for them — a difference that amounts to $1,100.
The provisions were nestled in the company’s terms and conditions, to which customers must agree when ordering products. According to Roca Labs, they were intended to protect the company and its customers from the mad ramblings of “one person” that threatens to ruin the fun for everyone. The terms stated in part:
 
You agree that regardless of your personal experience with RL (Roca Labs), you will not disparage RL and/or any of its employees, products or services. … We make it clear that RL and its Regimen may not be for everyone, and in that regard, the foregoing clause is meant to prevent “one person from ruining it for everyone.”
 
But the FTC said consumers are well within their rights to truthfully criticize products. The agency wrote in its complaint:
 
By depriving prospective purchasers of this truthful, negative information, Defendants’ practices have resulted or are likely to result in consumers buying Roca Labs products they would not otherwise have bought.
 
All of which led Jessica Rich, the director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, to conclude that, “Roca Labs had an adversarial relationship with the truth.”
 
Find more of TINA.org’s coverage of weight-loss products here. 
 
 

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COMMENTS

Ravindra

2 years ago

In India also such or more stringent Laws should be made before products with such false claims become a big and unregulated market. These kind of products thrive because they do not fall in the category of MEDICINES and hence are outside purview of Drug Controller.

New Data Reveals Stark Gaps in Graduation Rates Between Poor and Wealthy Students
For the first time ever, the public can see the graduation rates for Pell Grant recipients at over 1,000 schools in the US 
 
A new report released Thursday provides a detailed look at the graduation rates of low-income college students. At many colleges, low-income students graduate at much lower rates than their high-income peers. 
 
At the University of Missouri-Kansas City, only 35 percent of Pell Grant recipients graduate college, a rate that is more than 20 percentage points lower than that of their wealthier peers. And at St. Andrews, a liberal arts college in Laurinburg, North Carolina, only 13 percent of Pell Grant recipients graduate, more than 50 percentage points less than students who don’t receive the grants. 
 
The study found 51 percent of Pell students graduate nationwide, compared to 65 percent of non-Pell students. The average gap between wealthy and poor students at the same schools is much smaller: an average of 5.7 percentage points. That’s because many Pell students attend schools with low graduation rates. (You can now look up whether poor students are graduating at the same rate as their classmates in our newly updated interactive database, Debt by Degrees.)
 
Ben Miller, the senior director for postsecondary education at the Center for American Progress, said that schools with large graduation gaps deserve greater scrutiny.
 
“Colleges have responsibility to ensure that the students they enroll are well served,” said Miller. “If you’re going to enroll someone, you should do the absolute best you can to graduate them, or else don’t take their money.”
 
The new report comes on the heels of recently released federal education data that has brought new focus on how low-income students fare at college, including how much federal debt they take on and how much they earn after graduation. The graduation rates of low-income students were not included in that data.
 
The group behind the new report, the Education Trust, collected the graduation rates of Pell Grant recipients — typically students whose families make less than $30,000 a year — for a selection of more than 1,000 colleges across the country. 
 
A spokesman for University of Missouri-Kansas City said many of their students are low-income and that the school is working to do better. “We are not satisfied with that gap,” said John Martellaro. “We are investing more resources in our student success programs in an effort to narrow that gap.” (Read their full statement.)
 
St. Andrews did not immediately respond to requests for comment. 
 
At more than a third of the colleges studied, schools were able to serve their Pell students almost as well as non-Pell students, with a gap of less than 3 percentage points. 
 
Other schools have managed to graduate Pell students at an even higher rate than their non-Pell peers. According to the new data, nearly 90 percent of Pell recipients are able to graduate Smith College, compared with an 85 percent graduation rate of non-Pell students. And at Western Oregon University, Pell recipients have a graduation rate of... Continue Reading…
 

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US FDA Pulls Four Cigarette Brands Off Market
One of the brands whose sales were halted is popular among youth smokers
 
The FDA has halted the sales of four cigarette brands including Camel Crush Bold, which is a popular brand among youth smokers, marking the second time this summer that the agency has exercised its authority under a far-reaching 2009 tobacco-control law to regulate the industry.
 
The agency said it ordered the four brands, which carried new features such as a higher level of menthol, off the market because R.J. Reynolds, the second-largest tobacco company in the country, failed to prove that they do not present any more health risks than products previously sold.
 
“These decisions were based on a rigorous, science-based review designed to protect the public from the harms caused by tobacco use,” said Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products.
 
The order signals that the FDA is stepping up its regulatory muscle under the Tobacco Control Act of 2009 to pursue action against cigarette companies. In August, the agency warned the makers of Winston, Natural American Spirit and Nat Sherman cigarettes that advertising their smokes as “natural” and/or “additive-free” violates the tobacco-control law. The FDA said the companies did not have its approval to market their cigarettes with claims that the agency said implied they are safer than other brands.
 
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids applauded the FDA’s efforts to order a major cigarette brand — Camel Crush Bold — off the market. Matthew Myers, the group’s president, said:
 
Before the 2009 law, tobacco companies were free to change their products in secret, and no government agency had the authority to do anything about it. The FDA now has the authority to stop these harmful tobacco industry actions, and the agency’s action today is a much-needed step forward.
 
The other three products ordered pulled from the shelves were Pall Mall Deep Set Recessed Filter, Pall Mall Deep Set Recessed Filter Menthol and Vantage Tech 13.
 
Find more of TINA.org’s coverage on tobacco here. 
 
 

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