SPRINGFIELD - Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is suing three suppliers and a local affiliate marketer of acai berry products, charging that the companies defrauded consumers.
Madigan said the firms used deceptive practices to lure customers with free trial offers and then charged customers' credit cards prematurely. She also alleged that the firms did not always supply the product and made their "free" offer nearly impossible to cancel.
"For thousands of dieters, the quest for a miracle product has become a nightmare," Madigan said in a statement. "Far too often, consumers end up losing their money - not weight - in these deals."
The lawsuits were filed in the Chancery Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County. Madigan is seeking to bar the companies from selling dietary supplements, and $50,000 in civil penalties.
"The acai berry supplement sales programs are among the most aggressive that we have seen using misleading sales tactics to scam consumers," Madigan said. "Consumers should always be skeptical and educate themselves instead of blindly believing any endorsement claims. Also, consumers need to be very wary of weight loss and health claims that sound too good to be true."
Being sued by the attorney general are: Advanced Wellness Research, its successor, Netalab, and Nicholas Molina, the former president of Advanced Wellness and an agent of Netalab. The companies are based in Florida and operate out of a fulfillment center in Wood Dale. She is also suing Crush LLC and its owner, TMP Nevada, Inc., based in Utah.
Talk show maven Oprah Winfrey's company, Harpo Inc., assisted Madigan's office in the lawsuits.
Winfrey and Dr. Mehmet Oz, who appeared on her show, also filed suit against about 40 distributors of acai berry-containing products, accusing them of "capitalizing" on Winfrey's reputation.
Oz praised anti-aging properties of the acai berry last year during one of Winfrey's shows. Shortly after, they say the defendants began illegally using Winfrey's and Oz' names and likeness to help sell their products.