70 claim rip-off on diet spray
Julia Medew and Ian McIlwraith, The Age, June 23, 2011
Senior lawyer Van Moulis said he had been contacted by more than 70 people who had each paid about $60,000 to sell the spray in exclusive areas based on SensaSlim's claim that it had medical research to prove the efficacy of its product.
Advertisement: Story continues below ''They are pretty angry and a lot of them are shocked that they seem to have been duped,'' Mr Moulis said.
The Age revealed yesterday that the ACCC had won a Federal Court order last week to freeze SensaSlim's assets based on allegations it had misled consumers. It coincided with revelations that SensaSlim's ''research'' appeared to have been fabricated with the creation of the Geneva-based ''Intercontinental Research Institute''.
The institute claimed positive results from a voluntary internet trial of more than 11,000 users and featured photographs of executives who were actually doctors from St Paul Lung Clinic in Minnesota. The doctors said they had nothing to do with the institute or SensaSlim. The institute's website was not operating yesterday.
The same doctors' photos are on another website for the apparently non-existent Mountebank Clinic in New South Wales. The ''clinic'' is claimed to be part of a group called Reef Health, which is owned by Roxanne Naylor and Andrew Tatar, one of three men arrested in Vanuatu in 2007 for allegedly helping to smuggle convicted conman Peter Foster out of Fiji. Foster, best known for his financial dealings with Cherie Blair, has previously been involved with several other diet products labelled as scams.
Reef Health yesterday took down the Mountebank Clinic website and its solicitors sent a letter to The Age accusing its reporters of having ''hacked'' the site. The Age accessed the pages through Google.
Mr Moulis said his clients were shocked by the ''sensational revelations'' about SensaSlim in The Age and feared they would lose their money. ''They had relied upon representations by SensaSlim that the product was as good as they said it was and that they had the medical research to back it up.''
If the ACCC does not include Mr Moulis's application for compensation, he said he would launch a class action in the Federal Court to run alongside the ACCC's case.
The law firm that had been acting for SensaSlim, Kennedys, said it had terminated its contract with the company.
Seven people have complained about SensaSlim to the Therapeutic Goods Administration, including Melbourne academic Dr Ken Harvey, whose complaint prompted the company to launch a defamation case against him.
The TGA said the case had prevented it from proceeding with complaints against SensaSlim. This meant SensaSlim could continue to promote and sell its product.
SensaSlim did not respond to questions from The Age yesterday and continued to spruik its product as ''the most effective slimming solution available in the world today''.
A follow up article posted in The Australian July 09, 2011: Weight-loss nasal spray saga shows up watchdog by Leigh Dayton, Science writer.