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Weighty allegations against firm

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  • | 11:00 a.m. October 9, 2015
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Note to businesses: Having customers sign a gag order to not complain about products in online forums is probably a bad idea — if not illegal.

This should-be obvious business advice comes from a complaint the Federal Trade Commission filed Sept. 24 against Sarasota-based weight-loss supplement Roca Labs. The company, contends the FTC, has sold at least $20 million worth of a supposed weight loss powder since 2010.

“Roca Labs had an adversarial relationship with the truth,” says Jessica Rich, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, in a statement. “Not only did they make false or unsubstantiated weight-loss claims, they also attempted to intimidate their own customers from sharing truthful — and truly negative — reviews of their products.”

The crux of the FTC's 31-page complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Tampa, alleges Roca Labs sued and threatened to sue consumers who shared their negative experiences online or complained to the Better Business Bureau. The company, contends the FTC, filed the suits because it says the consumers violated the non-disparagement provisions of the terms and conditions they supposedly agreed to when they bought the products.

“The FTC alleges that these gag clause provisions, and the defendants' related warnings, threats and lawsuits, harm consumers by unfairly barring purchasers from sharing truthful, negative comments about the defendants and their products,” the agency says in the statement.

Roca Labs has advertised, marketed, promoted and sold dietary supplements and food products since 2009 through a series of websites that include and Its products include Roca Labs Formula and Roca Labs Anti-Craving powder, which the company billed as safe and effective alternatives to gastric bypass surgery. Roca, says the FTC, claimed users could lose as much as 21 pounds in one month, and users have a 90% success rate in achieving substantial weight loss.

Problem is, according to the FTC, Roca's weight-loss claims are false or unsubstantiated. The FTC also contends Roca failed to disclose they compensated users who posted positive reviews.

The FTC, in the complaint, seeks restitution to victims of any ill-gotten gains, in addition to an injunction against Roca to prevent more alleged violations.


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