Herbal Product Offer Produces Many BBB Complaints

March 19, 2009

In the first weeks of 2009, “free gasoline” offers have led to the highest number of complaints filed with the BBB by consumers living in Lousivlle, Southern Indiana and Western Kentucky. Companies selling dietary supplements such as herbal products are running a close second on the list of "BBB complaint-generating businesses."  The “Grand Champion” in producing the highest number of complaints about herbal products from consumers in this BBB’s service area is FWM Laboratories, Inc.  in Miami, Florida.  The company is marketing “AcaiBerry Detox,” a dietary supplement that is produced from acai berres, which come from Brazil.

The "Not-So-Risk-Free" offer looks like this:

The BBB does not know what health benefits (or dangers, for that matter) may result from using AcaiBerry Detox.  However, complaints to the BBB show clearly that FWM Laboratories' selling practices are leaving many unhappy consumers.  Much of this customer unhappiness results from the company’s “RISK FREE trial offer,” which encourages consumers to try the product and “just pay $3.95” for shipping and handling.

Unfortunately, it’s not so simple as trying the product “RISK FREE.”  The fine print shows that the fifteen day trial period begins from the day the product is ordered, not the day it is received by the consumer.  Plus the fifteen days are calendar days, not business days, which means that weekend days or holidays count against the fifteen days.  It appears from complaints that consumers frequently do not receive the product until much of the fifteen day “trial period” has expired.

In addition, people sometimes believe the “free trial” means the consumer will receive an initial supply of free product.  Not so.  The company appears to bill the credit cards of consumers for the product, at a cost of about $80 per bottle, immediately after the first 15 calendar days from the date of the order have expired.  Unless further orders have been cancelled by the consumer, the company ships an additional month’s supply and charges the credit card again within less than two weeks following the initial billing.

The Federal Trade Commission and the Better Business Bureau recommend that consumers use caution when considering health-related claims for products like AcaiBerry Detox. When evaluating health-related claims, be skeptical. If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Here are some signs of a fraudulent claim:

  • Statements that the product is a quick and effective cure-all or diagnostic tool for a wide variety of ailments. For example: "Extremely beneficial in the treatment of rheumatism, arthritis, infections, prostate problems, ulcers, cancer, heart trouble, hardening of the arteries and more."
  • Statements that suggest the product can treat or cure diseases. For example: "shrinks tumors" or "cures impotency."
  • Promotions that use words like "scientific breakthrough," "miraculous cure," "exclusive product," "secret ingredient" or "ancient remedy." For example: "A revolutionary innovation formulated by using proven principles of natural health-based medical science."
    Text that uses impressive-sounding terms like these for a weight-loss product: "hunger stimulation point" and "thermogenesis."
  • Undocumented case histories or personal testimonials by consumers or doctors claiming amazing results. For example: "My husband has Alzheimer['s disease]. He began eating a teaspoonful of this product each day. And now in just 22 days he mowed the grass, cleaned out the garage, weeded the flower beds and we take our morning walk again."
  • Limited availability and advance payment requirements. For example: "Hurry. This offer will not last. Send us a check now to reserve your supply."
  • Promises of no-risk "money-back guarantees." For example: "If after 30 days you have not lost at least 4 pounds each week, your uncashed check will be returned to you."

Due to the number of customer complaints produced by companies such as FWM Laboratories, Inc. and Advanced Wellness Research, which has been another top producer of customer complaints in 2009, BBB highly recommends that customers go to www.bbb.org and obtain a BBB Reliability Report before signing up for any offer from a seller of dietary supplements or herbal products.  In all too many cases, you may find the company has many complaints on file with the BBB and, as with these two companies, has an "F" rating with the Better Business Bureau.