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TOPIC: BBB receiving 1,000's of complaints for Acai Ad scheme

BBB receiving 1,000's of complaints for Acai Ad scheme 23 Jan 2009 18:12 #2948

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Beware of ordering anything online or free-trial....

Acai ad campaign not so super
By Shane Starling, 23-Jan-2009

The Better Business Bureau of Northern Indiana has warned consumers against bogus celebrity campaigns promoting the Amazonian superfruit, acai.
The BBB said it received 1000s of complains from duped consumers who thought they were signing up for a free trial of acai berry products that in fact cost them on a monthly basis.

The campaigns were supposedly endorsed by the likes of celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey and Rachel Ray.

Acai is one of the antioxidant-laden superfruits that has risen to popularity in previous years despite often selling at many times the price of ‘regular’ juices such as orange, apple and pineapple.
It grows wild in the Amazon and thanks to companies such as Sambazon and Nu-Fruits has become popular in western markets, especially in the form of juices and smoothies. Samabazon alone notched sales of $25 million in the US last year predominantly in powders and drinks.
Sambazon is widely available in mainstream outlets across North America, but beverages and other products from smaller brands proliferate via direct selling methods and there are many on the internet.

The use of social networking sites such as Bebo and Facebook have been employed to sell acai products, feeding off interest in the berry that saw 1.5m google searches for acai in November 2008 alone.
It is adverts linking these products with celebrities and then the bogus selling schemes that the BBB has sought to crack down on.

"BBB can't speak to the restorative or weight loss properties of acai-based products, but we are taking companies to task for their misleading sales and marketing practices," said Michael Coil, BBB president and CEO.
"Many businesses across the country are using the same selling model for their acai products: they lure customers in with celebrity endorsements and free trial offers, and then lock them in by making it extremely difficult to cancel the automatic delivery of more acai products every month."

The BBB named two companies as typical and gross offenders: FX Supplements and Central Coast Nutraceuticals. FX Supplements also sold hoodia products.

The schemes typically involved companies offering a 10-14 day risk-free trial with only shipping and handling costs being paid for by the consumer.
But when customers tried to cancel the trial they found the telephone number they called was answered by nothing more than an answering message service. Worse, it just rang out or they were made to stay on hold for an hour or more.
A cancellation email often did not deliver the intended result of canceling the subscription, leading many complainees to annul their own credit cards to stop the payments being made.
"These companies are simply abusing general acai berry endorsements from well-known, trusted celebrities by using it as a tacit endorsement of their company and products specifically," added Coil.
"Consumers trust Oprah and unfortunately, if they are tricked into believing that she is putting her stamp of approval on a product then they are definitely more likely to purchase it."

BBB runs a scheme whereby its mark can be employed by companies whose commercial reputation they endorse.

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