Friday, October 20, 2017

MLM History: Weight Loss, DMCA Abuse, and Child Porn, Oh My

Weight loss industry is a 60 BILLION dollar business (2013 figure) and it's no surprise there are a lot of various unproven claims from companies that sell magic weight loss formulas, each with its own claims how its own secret ingredient can help you lose weight through some semi-plausible mechanism. Frankly, all of them are bull****. The more you diet and exercise, the more your body adjusts to counteract your efforts. Most of the contestants in "The Biggest Loser" gain back all the weight they lost in a few years, despite all attempts to keep off the weight.

Consumers are getting wise to the various weight loss woos, and the entire diet industry is seeing a slow down, no doubt helped along by magic claims such as "alternative" to gastric bypass surgery by simply swallowing something. That company is called Roca Labs.

To quote the FTC director of Bureau of Consumer Protection, "Roca Labs Has An Adversarial Relationship With The Truth". And that's only the beginning.  (for a complete list, see TechDirt's Roca Labs coverage)

They claimed their product has a 90 percent success rate. In fact, they conducted no trials or clinical studies with their own products.

They offer 50% discount to people who videotape their "success stories", but did not tell people to disclose that they were compensated for such stories.

They operated a website that showed dangers of gastric bypass, with a page that links to selling Roca Labs products, without disclosing they actually own and run the website.

They have a "gag clause" in their contract that if you buy their stuff, you are contractually prohibited from saying anything negative about them for ever and to anybody including review sites and even BBB. And they have sued such customers.

They also claim if you say bad things about them, they'll rescind any discounts you've been given and they'll sue you for the difference. (!)

They tried to sue to shut down negative comments left by members. (They lost)

They threaten to sue the witnesses at their trial for violating the unenforceable gag clause, in a clear case of witness tampering, threaten to sue the other party's expert witness and threatened him with criminal violations, as well as sue the other party's lawyer for statements made in court.

They tried to use DMCA takedown to hide criticism against them

They threaten to sue TechDirt (twice) for reporting on the above egregious behavior, including once from merely QUOTING the lawsuit.

They claimed their opposing lawyer had bribed a state senator into passing the anti-SLAPP law of Nevada which hindered their SLAPP lawsuit. (It was dismissed)

They tried to claim endorsement by actor Alfonso Ribeiro until his lawyers stepped in and slapped that down. Then they did the same with Tommy Chong.

But that's not the most hilarious part.

That would be...

Their former "director of medical team" was actually a pediatrician who lost his license to practice medicine due to child porn.  (After that's exposed, the website was quickly purged)

Yet none of these are new, and has happened before, and will happen again.

A "brain supplement" company with a chiropractor as its "chief science officer".

Nerium associates used Ray Liotta's image without his permission.

Website selling dubious "income courses" also setup "review sites" giving its lessons a good rating.

And yours truly, #mlmskeptic, was threatened by ZeekRewards for exposing them.

Things don't really change. It is up to you to recognize the scam when you see it.

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