FTC Brings New 'Fake News' Lawsuit Against NutraSlim.com
In the latest of a string of “fake news” cases, the Federal Trade Commission has charged a Web site operator with duping consumers with fictional articles about the weight-loss supplement -- Boris Mizhen of Guilford, Conn., who allegedly operated NutraSlim.com, LeanSpa.com and other sites that used fake news items about acai berry to draw traffic.
Mizhen's affiliate marketers created fake news sites with names like “dailyhealth6.com,” and then posted articles that appeared to be objective reports, like 'Acai Berry Diet Exposed: Miracle Diet or Scam?'” the FTC alleges in a complaint filed last month in federal district court in Connecticut.
The sites -- which included logos of the major news networks -- “purport to provide objective investigative reports authored by reporters or commentators,” the FTC alleges. “In fact, the news reports promoting defendants' products are fake. Reporters or commentators pictured on the web sites are fictional and never conducted the tests or experienced the results described in the reports.”
In addition to duping people with fake news sites, Mizhen and his companies allegedly trick consumers by offering free trials to anyone willing to pay $5 mailing costs, but then sending regular shipments at a cost of around $80 a month.
“Defendants make it very difficult for consumers to cancel these continuity plans and avoid recurring charges or redeem promised money-back guarantees. Consumers have great difficulty reaching a live person when they try to cancel or request a refund,” the FTC says in its complaint.
Mizhen has consented to a temporary injunction banning him from using fake news sites to promote products, or from using “negative option” plans, which charge consumers automatically unless they affirmatively cancel the product. This lawsuit marks the 11th case this year the FTC has filed relating to marketing dietary supplements with fake news sites.
This case isn't Mizhen's first brush with the legal system. He also has been sued for allegedly sending spam to Hotmail users. Court records show that case was settled in June.