In the wake of recent Federal Trade Commission (FTC) actions, a new pattern of consumer protection action has emerged: companies who go too far in their marketing or give the appearance of an anti-consumer bias may be putting their companies at great risk.
Today’s target is the weight-loss company Roca Labs, who, along with aggressive, claim-filled marketing campaigns, has attempted to prevent online negativity about its products by attacking naysayers via fine print, lawsuits and legal intimidation. The case is an example of egregious company treatment toward “the little guy”, behavior that has inspired an enormous backlash on consumer websites and ultimately led to vigorous action from regulators.
According to an article from TechDirt, “it’s a lot less likely the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) would have taken on the Roca Labs case had it not actually gone out and started suing its critics.” The article also states:
“Roca itself has gone through a large number of lawyers in this process, and the company has actually ended up in court against some of its former lawyers as well. And there’s even more that we’ve written about in the past, and much more has happened since we last wrote about them. A few times we’ve considered writing updates based on crazy threats or lawsuits, but just haven’t had the time. However, one question that has come up a few times: why hasn’t the FTC and/or the FDA cracked down on Roca’s questionable claims? Via a FOIA request, we revealed that the FTC was compiling a rather large file of customer complaints about Roca Labs… and apparently, things finally reached the tipping point.
Yesterday, the FTC finally filed a complaint against Roca Labs and the people behind it: Don Juravin and George Whiting. The FTC’s complaint is a worth a read, because not only does it cover some of the ground we’ve already discussed, it reveals some new and even more questionable behavior — such as anonymously running a sketchy website supposedly about gastric bypass surgery, that pushed people away from gastric bypass surgery, but had an “alternatives to gastric bypass” page, that served to solely promote Roca Labs’ “product” — which everyone admits is a mix of industrial food thickeners and some other stuff. Of course, to throw people off the scent that the Gastricbypass.me site was really run by Roca Labs, the company amusingly pretends to be critical of some aspects of Roca Labs.”
Today’s lesson? Carefully evaluate your marketing for any potential claims and be especially careful about employing heavy-handed legal action against those who dare say bad things about your company. Instead, build an online reputation protection program, monitor your field for compliance, and always treat people with respect, even if they don’t like you.
To continue reading the full article from TechDirt, click here.