~ Companies marketed Acai berry supplements, among others ~
TALLAHASSEE, FL – Attorney General Bill McCollum today announced that his office has reached a national settlement with an internet-based company that markets non-prescription dietary and health supplements. The settlement resolves allegations that the company, Aton Solutions, and its subsidiaries were offering free trials of their products, including Acai berry supplements, but customers were unable to cancel their subscriptions before being billed. Since the Attorney General began investigating, Aton has made nearly $10 million in customer refunds nationwide.
Palm Beach County-based Aton Solutions and subsidiaries GIC LLC, SFL Nutrition LLC, Globalnet Pharmacies LLC and Glades Distribution Services LLC offer 15-day free trials of several products, but the trials triggered an automatic subscription and customers had to cancel the subscriptions before the end of the trial so they would not be billed for the products. The Attorney General’s Economic Crimes Division received thousands of complaints from consumers and opened an investigation in December 2008.
According to the complaints filed with the Attorney General’s Office, customers claimed they were unable to contact the companies by telephone, e-mail or through the company’s websites to cancel future orders under the terms of the free trial offer. As a result, thousands of consumers were continuously billed a monthly fee of $80 or more for products that they neither ordered nor wanted.
Under the settlement, Aton Solutions and its subsidiaries will openly describe all terms and conditions of any trial offer located on the company’s website and will clearly disclose how and when products may be returned. Additionally, the company will maintain adequate customer service personnel to field cancellation requests in compliance with the terms and conditions of the free trial offer and will continue to examine, address and resolve all complaints related to the company’s business, products and trial offers.
In addition to the consumer refunds, Aton has agreed to pay $250,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs and will continue to issue refunds to any consumers who have complaints. The companies have fully cooperated with Attorney General’s investigation.
The company that agreed to the settlement sells Acai Berry Supreme and Extreme Acai Berry, among others. While I applaud the Attorney General for looking into this scam, I can not help wonder how much difference it will make. At least some people will get some of their money back, but how many just gave up when they couldn’t reach anybody to cancel the autoship? While they might have had their credit card company stop further payments, many of them are likely out of the money for the first couple of shipments. Clearly, this company has made a lot of money on this product as they agreed to a settlement of $10 million in refunds.
The company is also allowed to continue to sell these in my opinion useless products. The requirement to “clearly disclose how and when products may be returned” is technically fulfilled, but who checks the “Terms and Conditions” before placing a $3.95 order for a “Risk Free Trial?” Or, understands the statement about “a negative option” that has been added to the bottom of the page?
†I UNDERSTAND THAT THIS CONSUMER TRANSACTION INVOLVES A NEGATIVE OPTION AND THAT I MAY BE LIABLE FOR PAYMENT OF FUTURE GOODS AND SERVICES, UNDER THE TERMS OF THIS AGREEMENT, IF I FAIL TO NOTIFY THE SUPPLIER NOT TO SUPPLY THE GOODS OR SERVICES DESCRIBED.
It is also annoying that the supposed benefits of this product were not questioned. Acai Berry continues to be sold as a detox and weight loss supplement despite there being no proof of these claims. None. The only studies that have been done have confirmed a relatively high amount of antioxidants but then there are no studies that show that antioxidants are beneficial to us in the first place.