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FTC Settles Two More Cases on Marketing with Fake News Sites

28 Mar, 2012 By: Jackie Jones

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Two more online marketers will stop using fake news websites to promote acai berry supplements and “colon cleansers” as weight-loss products after settling with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Under the settlement, the defendants – Intermark Communications Inc. doing business as Copeac, Coulomb Media Inc. and Cody Low, among others – will pay nearly $1.5 million, according to the FTC’s official statement.

“As part of the FTC’s ongoing crackdown on bogus health claims, the proposed settlements with the Copeac and Coulomb defendants will require the operators to make clear when their commercial messages are advertisements rather than legitimate journalism, and will bar the defendants from further deceptive claims about health-related products, such as the acai berry weight-loss supplements and colon cleansers they marketed. The defendants also are required to disclose any material connections they have with merchants, and will be barred from making deceptive claims about other products,” the FTC said. “With these two settlements, eight of the 10 fake news site cases the FTC brought in 2010 have been resolved, and all the fake news sites affiliated with the eight operations have been permanently shut down.”

The FTC settlement also requires Copeac to monitor all of its affiliate marketers when selling any good or service, obtain adequate information about the affiliate marketers it hires, approve their advertisements and immediately stop processing payments generated by any affiliate marketer using deceptive advertisements.

The FTC has been targeting the fake news sites since last year, when it received numerous complaints from consumers who said they paid between $70 and $100 for weight-loss products after seeing the advertisements on the fake news sites, according to the FTC statement. In recent settlements with other acai berry marketers, Central Coast Nutraceuticals was required to pay $1.5 million; Jesse Willms had to surrender corporate and personal assets; and the FTC obtained a preliminary injunction barring LeanSpa LLC, which the commission sued in conjunction with the state of Connecticut, from engaging in charged deceptive practices.

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