USN issues a ‘Take-down’ notice for CamCheck

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Posted 18 March 2015

This tells of USN’s CEO, Albe Geldenhuys’ assault on our right to expose and make “fair comment” on the lack of evidence for USN products, and by implication, on the ethics and morals of those involved; and for our (previous) ISP, Hetzner, for not protecting their client and not supporting the principles of the ISPA code of conduct which positions: “ISPA members must respect the constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression”. This aspect is elaborated upon in two articles published in the online community news reporting project, GroundUp:
(Consumer activist forced to move website offshore – Barbara Maregele)
(A stealthy attempt at censorship – Kevin Charleston)

On the 10 March 2015, CamCheck received a “Take-down” request from Hetzner, who in turn received this request from ISPA. ISPA received a letter (see) from USN’s lawyers, Weavind & Weavind, who made the following claims:

“. .  unlawful comments were posted . . “, “certain remarks and/or comments made  . .  are inter alia defamatory and include, but are not limited, to the following . .”

  • . . . Albe Geldenhuys a master scam artist, and their products a scam;
  • . . . a liar;
  • . . . products are illegal;
  • . . . does not put the appropriate research into creating and or manufacturing many of their products, insinuating that our client is negligent.
  • . . .  has concealed relevant information from its clients and the public;
  • . . .  has intentionally or negligently hidden banned substances in their products;
  • . . .  Albe Geldenhuys want to “squash” their clients’ and the public’s right to freedom of speech.
  • . . . a “snake oil salesman”;
  • . . . tries to circumvent the ASA code;

They write that “ . . comments have had the effect of inciting certain members and visitors to the site CamCheck to follow suit” and “remarks and/or comments are false, without merit, untrue and calculated to damage our client’s reputation”.

The claims were made in relation to these posts:

http://www.camcheck.co.za/albe-geldenhuys-of-usn/;
http://www.camcheck.co.za/usn-responds-to-camcheck/;
http://www.camcheck.co.za/usn-carb-binder-the-scam-continues/

[accordion][spoiler title=”Click to view USN’s Lawyer’s letter”] [note note_color=”#fefef1″]

————————————————————-
Take-Down Notice: #789 Lodged via the ISPA website.
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ISP Name: Hetzner (Pty) Ltd

Link to infringing content:

http://www.camcheck.co.za/albe-geldenhuys-of-usn/;
http://www.camcheck.co.za/usn-responds-to-camcheck/;
http://www.camcheck.co.za/usn-carb-binder-the-scam-continues/

Name: Weavind & Weavind Inc. acting on behalf of Ultimate Sports Nutrition (Pty) Ltd

Email Address: [email protected]

Physical Address:

Block E, Glenfield Office Park,

361 Oberon Street,

Faerie Glen, Pretoria, 0043

Postal Code: PO Box 34 Pretoria, 0001

Telephone Number: (012) 346 3098

Mobile Number: N/A

Problem Activity:

The unlawful comments were posted on the following dates:

  • 9 March 2014;
  • 23 January 2015 as a response to our client’s, media statement dated 26 January 2015; and
  • 10 February 2015.

Certain remarks and/or comments made in the aforementioned articles and/or posts are inter alia defamatory and include, but are not limited, to the following:

  1. “Albe Geldenhuys of USN, a master scam artist?” posted on 9 March 2014.

1.1.         Calling Albe Geldenhuys a master scam artist;

1.2.         Calling our client a liar;

1.3.         Stating that our client’s products are illegal;

1.4.         Suggesting that our client does not put the appropriate research into creating and or manufacturing many of their products, insinuating that our client is negligent.

 

  1. CamCheck’s response to our client’s media statement dated 23 January 2015.

2.1.         Suggesting that our client has concealed relevant information from its clients and the public;

2.2.         Suggesting that our client has intentionally or negligently hidden banned substances in their products;

2.3.         Calling our client a liar;

2.4.         Suggesting that our client does not put the appropriate research into creating and or manufacturing many of their products, insinuating that our client is negligent;

2.5.         That our client and specifically Albe Geldenhuys want to “squash” their clients’ and the public’s right to freedom of speech.

 

  1. “USN Carb Binder – the scam continues” dated 10 February 2015.

 

3.1.         Calling Albe Geldenhuys a “snake oil salesman”;

3.2.         Calling Albe Geldenhuys a master scam artist;

3.3.         Suggesting that our client tries to circumvent the ASA code;

3.4.         Calling our client and their products a scam.

Describe Problem:

The aforementioned comments have had the effect of inciting certain members and visitors to the site CamCheck to follow suit.

The remarks and/or comments are false, without merit, untrue and calculated to damage our client’s reputation.

Remedial Action:

You are therefore requested to immediately instruct Hetzner to remove the aforementioned articles and response to our client’s media statement.

Once you have forwarded this Take Down notice to Hetzner within 3 [three] working days as indicated on your website and thereafter once Hetzner has been notified of this Take Down notice by your offices they, according to Hetzner’s website, give the customer (CamCheck), “4 [four] working days to comply with the notification which involves removing the content in question.”

Please note that if you fail to comply with these demands as set out above by close of business 20 March 2015, our client will immediately consider taking further legal action against any and every party in the chain of publication.

User IP address: 41.180.0.170

The above information is to my knowledge true and correct and has been provided in good faith.

[/note] [/spoiler][/accordion]

Hetzner were instructed (“requested” to immediately remove the posts from CamCheck (or close down the site) or else, “if you fail to comply with these demands as set out above by close of business 20 March 2015, our client will immediately consider taking further legal action against any and every party in the chain of publication”.

Here is an evaluation if the most salient claims, and our response:

1. . . . Albe Geldenhuys a master scam artist, and their products a scam;

  • There have been over 36 ASA complaints against USN products of which the majority were ruled in favour of the complainant. (http://www.camcheck.co.za/usn-previous-asa-rulings/)
  • If a health product is sold with no evidence to support the claim – this is a scam, We have a right to know that the product does what it claims
  • If a company continues to sell a product, after being made aware of the lack of evidence, e.g., inability to present evidence to support the claims (to the ASA), this is clear evidence that it is a scam.
  •  USN changed the name of USN Carb Blocker to USN Carb Binder following an ASA ruling but continued to make essentially similar claims for the exact same ingredient.
  • The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published a scientific opinion that the critical ingredient used in USN Carb Binder has no proof of benefit. As the company continues to sell the product, it can be regarded as a scam. (http://www.camcheck.co.za/usn-carb-binder/) (In this instance, although USN eventually removed the product from the USN website, it is still available through Dis-Chem, Kalahari.com, etc.)
  • USN changed the name of USN Fat Block to USN Fat Binder following an ASA ruling but continued to make essentially similar claims for the exact same ingredient. (http://www.camcheck.co.za/usn-fat-block-fat-chance/) Merely changing a product’s name and claiming the same benefit is an attempt to weasel past the ASA’s rulings. This is a scam.
  • Other supporting examples include “oxygenated water” (oxygen is not absorbed through the stomach), “Bio-Field Balance Bracelet” (an imitation of the Power Bracelet, found to be fraud) (http://www.camcheck.co.za/category/power-balance-wristband/) (http://www.camcheck.co.za/albe-geldenhuys-of-usn/)
  • Selling products (E.g 100% Whey) with less ‘stuff’ than advertised – is clearly a scam.

2.. . . a liar;

  • USN/Albe has made repeated false and unsubstantiated claims for products. He repeatedly gets it so wrong that the ASA needs to remind him numerous times.
  • USN/Albe have repeatedly ducked ASA sanctions by stating that they will change their advertising – but they have not kept their word, as is shown by the breach rulings. This is in effect lying.
  • USN/Albe assert that they do not dupe consumers despite evidence to the contrary, this makes them liars.
  • USN/Albe claims to comply with the ASA code despite evidence to the contrary, makes them liars. (http://www.camcheck.co.za/usn-previous-asa-rulings/)
    See also Point 8.
  • USN/Albe claims that they are not “squash[ing]” the publics right to freedom of speech (see Point 8), yet threaten legal action against CamCheck which is making “fair and factual comment”. (http://www.camcheck.co.za/usn-responds-to-camcheck/) This makes them liars.

3.. . . products are illegal;

  • After 15 years USN/Albe are still not able to prove that their products comply with the Medicines Act or Foodstuffs act. Again, this is either a deliberately illegal tactic, or the actions of a company/individual monstrously incapable of running a supplement or foodstuff company. Ignorance of the law is no excuse.
  • The products would also not comply with the parts of the Consumer Protection Act intended to protect consumers.

 4. . . does not put the appropriate research into creating and or manufacturing many of their products, insinuating that our client is negligent.

  • There is no evidence that a single USN product has been scientifically tested on human subjects, and considering many are a mixture of ingredients, no-one can say for certain what their effects are.
  • For many of the ingredients, there is no proof that they can give the results USN/Albe claim.
  • There is no or insufficient evidence to support claims for USN products. (http://www.camcheck.co.za/usn-previous-asa-rulings/)
  •  Many of USN products in fact are NOT using appropriate research. For example, USN 17 Testo Methox was advertised as a testosterone booster (now changed following an ASA ruling). It contained among other, Tribulus terrestris. Scientific databases were searched for evidence. In PubMed there were 65 scientific papers for Tribulus terrestris. Only four had evaluated this ingredient’s effect on testosterone and all concluded that there was no effect on testosterone. The ingredients 20-hydroxy ecdysterone and methoxy-isoflavone were also shown to have no effect on testosterone. For the other ingredients, none were tested for their effect on testosterone. [references available on request]  Yet USN continues to sell this product with thumb-suck claims.
  • Selling 100% Whey or “high” protein products claiming to be able to build muscles, is against physiological principles and the science of building muscle as elaborated upon here.
  • Update 26 March 2015: The UK ASA has tasked USN with withdrawing claims for at least four products from their UK website. If the claims could be scientifically substantiated, USN would have. They could not.
  • See also examples in Points 6 and 8.

 5. . .  has intentionally or negligently hidden banned substances in their products;

 6. . . a “snake oil salesman”;

  • The definition of “snake oil” is “a worthless preparation fraudulently peddled as a cure for many ills.” (thefreedictionary) By extension, a snake oil salesman is someone who knowingly sells fraudulent goods or who is themselves a fraud, quackcharlatan, or the like.” This accurately describes USN/Geldenhuys
  • A case in point, USN 17 Testo-X claimed to be a “testosterone booster” / “testosterone amplifier” containingSuper concentrated tribulus terrestris. Eurycoma longfolia, Avena sativa, 4-Hydroxy isoleucine 30%, 20-Hydroxy ecdysterone, 7-Isopropoxyisoflavone, Magnesium, Zinc. A thorough search for evidence, that any of these ingredients or the combination of any of them, could not be found to support the claim for boosting of testosterone.
  • USN has not been able to supply the ASA unequivocal proof that the claims being made for, among other, USN Phedra-Cut Lipo XT, Biogen Testoforte, Carb Binder, Fat Block, USN Phedra-Cut Hardcore, and others, are truthful.
  • See further examples in Point 8.

 7. . . tries to circumvent the ASA code;

  • USN is well acquainted with Clause 4.1 of Section II of the ASA’s Code which states “Before advertising is published, advertisers shall hold in their possession documentary evidence as set out in Clause 4.1, to support all claims, whether direct or implied, that are capable of objective substantiation”. Yet USN consistently has not been able to provide evidence even after the lodging of a complaint.
  • It is well documented in many previous ASA rulings that USN tries to circumvent the ASA code. (http://www.camcheck.co.za/usn-previous-asa-rulings/)
  • For example, in the USN Phedra-Cut Hardcore ruling, the ASA noted:“This matter constituted yet another undertaking that appears to be calculated to merely sidestep adverse decisions or sanctions, and the Directorate rejected the undertaking.” (http://www.camcheck.co.za/usn-phedra-cut-hardcore-asa-ruling/). In this case, USN decided to withdraw the product from the market rather than face sanctions.
  • The UK ASA have ruled against USN-UK on more than one occasion. This company was also founded by Albe Geldenhuys. See here (third paragraph). In a ruling against CreatineX4 New generation Creatine Ethyl Ester, “The ASA concluded that, in the absence of sound clinical evidence, the claims ‘Studies have shown that this form of creatine is up to 400% more effective than ordinary creatine’ and “CreatineX4 is unmatched in its ability to boost training intensity and recovery’ were misleading”. (http://asa.org.uk/News-resources/Reports-and-research/~/media/Files/ASA/Reports/ASA_Compliance_Health_Beauty_2006.ashx)
    That was 2009 – yet South African consumers are still being scammed: On the Mkem website, the following statement (supplied by USN) is being made “400% more effective than other forms of creatine.” (http://www.mkem.co.za/p25072/USN-Creatine-X4.aspx)
  • I am reliably informed USN had to recently withdraw claims for at least four products from their UK website following a UK ASA intervention. USN Xédra-Cut Ultra XT, USN Diet Fuel Protein Soup, Creatine Anabolic Transport System and USN VO2 Max Red Blood Cell & Oxygen Booster.
  • Creatine Anabolic Transport System claimed:“The USN Creatine Anabolic is scientifically formulated to provide you with a hardcore performance supplement with the high levels of Creatine and quality carbohydrates.” The product contains, among other, beta alanine. EFSA (European Food Safety Authority published a scientific opinion on the claims for beta alanine concluding that “a cause and effect relationship has not been established between the consumption of beta-alanine and increased physical performance during short-duration, high-intensity exercise.” (http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/supporting/pub/754e.htm)

8.. . .Albe Geldenhuys wants to “squash” their clients’ and the public’s right to freedom of speech.

  • USN/Albe Geldenhuys states in their media statement that they “have initiated the due legal processes necessary to have the allegations removed . . ”. My response that they want to squash factual “fair comment”, and therefore, the public’s right to freedom of speech, is accurate.
  • USN/Albe Geldenhuys demands that Hetzner acts against the very post which factually counter-balances counters USN’s media statement. (http://www.camcheck.co.za/usn-responds-to-camcheck/). This action is to prevent a factual response to USN’s claims and therefore indirectly muzzling of freedom of speech.

 

CamCheck has published the ASA rulings, and in many instances, added commentary regarded as “fair comment”. Our opinions are without malice, not extreme, unjust, unbalanced, exaggerated nor prejudiced but based on supporting evidence for our assertions. The defence against an action of defamation would be that the statement is true and for the public benefit, or that it is fair comment on a matter of public interest. More here (http://www.camcheck.co.za/critics/#defamation)

And here is the paradox and very funny part: USN/Albe Geldenhuys’ lawyers write that “. . the . .  information [in the lawyer’s letter] is to my knowledge true and correct and has been provided in good faith.” In other words, USN/Albe Geldenhuys has lied to their lawyers!

As reasoned above, our statements are true, they are in the public benefit – and USN lawyers would have known that they are unable to substantiate their argument in a court of law – and therefore we believe this Take-down was made in bad faith, or in sheer ignorance.

We will amend and apologise for errors made; but not for commentary that is based on fact and that can be defended in a court of law.

 

[accordion][spoiler title=”Click to view Hetzner’s Take-down letter”] [note note_color=”#fefef1″] Dear Dr Steinman,

We have received the attached take-down notice from the Internet Service Provider’s Association (ISPA) pursuant to section 77 of the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act 25 of 2002 (ECT Act). We have reviewed the complaint and in our opinion it meets all of the procedural requirements set out in Section 77 of the ECT Act (See http://www.internet.org.za/ect_act.html#Hosting).

This notice is issued when an individual alleges that unlawful activity has taken place on a web site that is hosted with Hetzner. In this instance, the notice refers to allegedly offending content located at camcheck.co.za which our records indicate as being under your ownership. Please pay particular attention to the sections entitled ‘Problem Activity’ and ‘Remedial Action’.

We are required to inform you of the take-down notice and request that you comply timeously, informing us once you have removed the alleged content. We will liaise with ISPA on your behalf, informing them of the steps taken.

Since removing any content could have a significant impact on you, we understand that in certain situations this may not always be possible. As a hosting company, Hetzner does not adjudicate whether the content is offensive or not. Our role is simply to enforce the take-down request as per the ECT Act.

We would also like to draw your attention to our Terms of Service (Specific Terms & Conditions; Clause 3.5 & 3.6 [1]). These clauses relate specifically to Hetzner’s right to suspend / terminate websites that communicate offensive / unlawful content. See http://www.hetzner.co.za/index.php/hosting/pages/specific-terms-and-conditions/.

Please respond to this request by 12 March 2015 to avoid suspension of your website.

Should you require further assistance in this matter, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Kind Regards

Hetzner Abuse Department

Hetzner (Pty) Ltd  –  Winning awards since 2003

National Contact Centre:  0861-0861-08 [/note] [/spoiler][/accordion] [note note_color="#f6fdde" radius="4"]CamCheck posts related to USN
(Link opens in new browser window)

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4 Responses to USN issues a ‘Take-down’ notice for CamCheck

  1. Philip Machanick 19 March, 2015 at 3:18 pm #

    Have you considered issueing take-down requests for every web publication that unlawfully claims nonexistent medical benefits? That would after all be fraud, would it not?

  2. Kevin Charleston 19 March, 2015 at 5:18 pm #

    Yes – I think they are committing fraud.

    But: I think take-down orders are a useful process – provided they are used properly – for truly unlawful content. Although I’d like to be able to order USN to take down all adverts which I believe are fraudulent – censorship is not a step to be taken lightly. If all possible approaches have been made, through the appropriate bodies (like the ASA), and they agree that USN is in breach, and in contempt – only then should one consider it.

    Willy-nilly issuing takedowns for adverts we don’t think are right reduces their effectiveness when needed – who chooses which are relevant? Some poorly educated admin clerk?

  3. Rudi de Lange 30 March, 2015 at 8:26 am #

    This is a good example of the Streisand effect!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Ultimate Sports Nutrition and the harms of quackery - 17 September, 2015

    […] recently, Dr Steinman and CamCheck were the subject of a takedown notice from Ultimate Sports Nutrition and their founder Albe Geldenhuys, who alleged that “unlawful […]

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