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Florida Company Sued Over Weight Loss Drug, Complaints of Broken Promises

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Customers complain of broken promises by a weight loss drug and being sued if they complain online. (Published Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015)

    Shawn Wilson wanted to drop 25-30 pounds, so she went shopping online for a weight loss drug.

    "I got on the Internet and I Googled weight loss," Wilson said. "How can I lose weight without having surgery?"

    She said she found a Florida company called Roca Labs that branded its product "Gastric Bypass No Surgery."

    "I saw different comments about how it works and people showing before and after pictures," Wilson said. "I thought, hey I'll give it a try."

    Wilson ordered the product but said problems began soon after she took it.

    "From day one, I had headaches, stomachaches, I couldn't sleep at night," she recalled.

    She said she wasn't able to get a return phone call from the company when she called to return the product.

    "So, I took the initiative to email them," she said. "I received an email back from them saying once you buy the product, it's yours. There are no refunds and you can't return the item."

    Wilson then stopped future payments to Roca Labs, but says that didn't sit well with the company. She said they demanded payment.

    "I felt like it was a threat. They're telling me you need to make your payment or you're going to go in collections," she said.

    She stood firm and said the company finally stopped contacting her for payment. She said she decided diet and exercise was the best way to lose weight and shed her unwanted pounds.

    Another customer, Jennifer Schaive of Springfield, Illinois, took her complaint about the company to the Better Business Bureau. She wrote a negative review about the product.

    "They didn't like that I wrote a negative review," Schaive said. "They told me that I needed to take my review down or they were going to file a lawsuit against me."

    Schaive didn't remove her review. The company did sue her but eventually dropped the lawsuit.

    The Florida Attorney General's Office has received similar complaints about Roca Labs. One complaint reads, "They have emailed me twice with lawyer letters saying I am being sued for defamation if I do not send them $300,000."

    Roca Labs did not respond to requests for comments but in response to a recent lawsuit filed against it by the Federal Trade Commission said: "Customers were required to agree not to publicly disparage Roca Labs."

    But an FTC attorney said adding a so-called gag clause in writing doesn't make it right.

    "A company upfront saying, 'no bad reviews of us and no bad reviews of our products,' we think is unlawful," said Carl Settlemyer with the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection.

    The FTC lawsuit also alleges the company's advertising is deceptive including promises of a 21 pound a month weight loss, a scientifically proven 90 percent success rate and claims that the product is safe and effective for use by children as young as six.

    Settlemyer said some customers may have lost weight but the company can't provide scientific proof that the product caused the weight loss.

    The company denies using deceptive weight loss ads. In court documents, the company stated it stands behind the effectiveness of its products.

    While the FTC lawsuit winds its way through court, Roca Labs has dropped some of the questionable language in its advertising and is no longer pursuing lawsuits against customers.

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