Abbott settles with dietary supplement distributor

Keith Loria Jul. 23, 2009, 10:00am

Acai berries

FORT WORTH (Legal Newsline) - Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced Tuesday that the State has resolved its investigation into an Arlington dietary supplements on-line distributor.

Distributor Austin Hilton widely advertised the "acai berry" supplement as reducing the risk of heart attack, Alzheimer's disease and cancers, Abbott said.

His advertising materials also claimed the product could limit premature aging, however, Hilton's claims were not backed by sound scientific studies, and they have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Abbott said.

He added that when customers clicked on the advertising links, they were informed that they would have four minutes to place their orders before the free trial of the Acai Berry Maxx product expired.

Customers who completed orders were asked to pay a $5.95 shipping and handling fee. To make the required payment, purchasers had to provide their credit or debit card numbers, Abbott said.

The Republican attorney general's investigation found that this transaction led customers to a "terms and conditions" page that failed to clearly disclose several problematic provisions and customers soon found themselves paying as much as $80 for one-month supplies, even after customers demanded cancellation.

According to state investigators, the negative option language embedded within the "terms and conditions" violated state law.

Under terms of the settlement, has agreed to stop shipping unauthorized orders to customers, refrain from making false health claims, and clearly disclose its terms of service to future purchasers. The online vendor also agreed to provide refunds to customers that it overcharged for its products.

The settlement also had Hilton and the defendant companies, which also includes Hilton HG, Ltd., agreeing to numerous corrective measures and penalties, including customer restitution and Web page modifications.

The agreed final judgment also prohibits Hilton and FXsupplements from relying upon false advertising or deceptive schemes to sell the products

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