How Does Judicial Review Affect The U.S. Government Answers.Com Acai Berry Products, Spectacular Health Claims and Credit Card Fraud

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Acai Berry Products, Spectacular Health Claims and Credit Card Fraud

The health craze surrounding acai berry juice and dietary supplements is almost a complete scam.

I say “almost” because acai berries do have some health benefits. As you’ve no doubt read in the promotional articles that have become ubiquitous on the health-oriented parts of the Internet, acai berries are indeed high in antioxidants, and antioxidants can help protect against the molecules known as “free radicals” that can contribute to the development of heart disease, cancer and other maladies.

But acai berries are not the only food high in antioxidants. The same can be said blueberries, black cherries and other produce that can be bought for a few dollars a package at your local supermarket.

Which begs the question: Why is it that marketers of acai berry products are charging $40 for a bottle of juice or $50 for a month’s supply of nutritional supplements?

The answer is that many people believe the claims that have been made that acai berry products have nearly magical weight-loss and cancer fighting benefits, even though those claims have never been supported by scientific studies. Other claims about acai berries that have been propagated are that they can raise your energy level, help you sleep more deeply and improve your sexual performance. Again, none of these claims have ever been supported by scientific studies. In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health, there is insufficient evidence to say whether acai berries are effective against any health condition.

But to find this information online takes some digging. Internet marketers have flooded the web with sites repeating the false health claims. It has been a spectacularly successful scam

The government has repeatedly taken action to shut down these acai berry scam sites.

In 2010, for example, the Food & Drug Administration warned the owners of naturazing.com that they were violating federal drug marketing laws with claims that their “acai powder” product had “anti-inflamatory” and “anti-bacterial” properties, among others.

And the same year, the Federal Trade Commission obtained a court order to stop Central Coast Nutraceuticals Inc. from claiming that its AcaiPure product promoted rapid weight loss and that its Colopure product could prevent colon cancer.

But it appears that government efforts have had little effect on the larger problem. Just Google the term “acai berry” and you can quickly find more websites making similarly outrageous health claims to the ones that were made by Natural Zing and AcaiPure.

The myths around acai berries seem to have captured the public’s imagination to such a degree that they are commonly used as bait in scams that go beyond bogus health claims.

Websites promoting acai berry products have frequently been used to run scams involving deceptive “free trial” offers, and other improper billing of credit cards. These scams generally involve offering a free trial of a nutritional product. When the customer signs up for the free trial, they are then charged a high, recurring monthly fee for the product, and sometimes are signed up and charged for other products that they didn’t order. The operators of these scams often make it difficult for customers to cancel or get refunds for the recurring monthly charges. In some cases, the companies have required that the product be returned within such a short time frame that the customer hasn’t been aware that they were being charged before it was too late. In other cases, the companies simply haven’t responded to requests for refunds.

Such practices by XM Brands resulted in the company agreeing to pay more than $3 million to settle charges brought by the Florida Attorney General’s Office in January 2011.

But consumer advocates have noted that the problem of free trial scams has proven difficult to stamp out.

It’s “a game of whack-a-mole,” said Stephen A. Cox, CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus. “Just as soon as one company is put out of business it’s replaced by another with the same model of ripping consumers off under the guise of a no-risk free trial offer.”

Along with the free trial scam websites, there are many other websites that purport to be warning consumers about the free trial scams. But in the course, of doing so, they also appear to be marketing other acai berry products. “You have to be careful” which acai berry you order, is the language used on many of these sites.

But the truth is that you don’t have to be careful. There’s no particular reason to use acai berry products at all.

Instead, just include a regular balance of ordinary, supermarket fruit in your diet. There’s no need to overspend on magical “superfuits,” which special fat-burning and cancer-stopping properties, since they don’t really exist.

If you’ve been a victim of a free trial scam, contact your credit card company as soon as possible and see if you can charge back the order.

And if you’ve been a victim of any deceptive advertising, contact your state’s attorney general’s office, the Better Business Bureau and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

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