A brief update on the Roca Labs saga:
While the company has been conducting a scorched-earth litigation campaign against its critics, suing many on much-maligned grounds, it has been quietly facing a class action in California. The case, filed in September in the Los Angeles Superior Court, alleges causes of action for unfair competition, violations of the Consumer Legal Remedies Act, false advertising, and negligent misrepresentation.
The allegations should sound familiar, echoing the refrain of many of the critics now facing legal action from Roca Labs: that the product doesn’t always work as promised. Specifically, the complaint alleges that Roca Labs’ description of their product as a “Gastric Bypass Alternative” is false, as “gastric bypass” refers to a surgical procedure, and that the claims that it would create a “gastric bypass effect” are “not supported by reliable scientific evidence, are misleading and/or false. […] Roca Labs did not invent any new ‘procedure,’ they simply use false and misleading advertising terms.”
The complaint further swats at Roca Labs’ website, which “gives the false appearance that it was created and/or sponsored by doctors and that the Formula is a medical product.” Of course, “Dr. Ross” — the doctor who until recently appeared as a representative of Roca Labs but previously lost his medical license — is featured..
Although Roca Labs’ agreement now expressly exempts California residents from its censorious no-criticism policy, thereby preventing the application of recently-enacted [section], the complaint invokes the practice thusly:
[Roca Labs] claim[s] a 90% success rate while simultaneously (i) attempting to prohibit consumers from expressing any negative comments about their experience and (ii) admittedly (buried in inconspicuous disclaimers) using dramatized testimonials thereby eliminating any attempt to adequately evaluate the actual success rate.
In other words, Roca Labs’ practice of attempting to silence online criticism is itself misleading because it deprives prospective customers of an opportunity to consider whether the product works as claimed.
The case is in its early stages. I’ll keep an eye on it and, in the unlikely event that there are substantial hearings or a trial (that is, assuming the case doesn’t settle early), I’ll report anything interesting. Stay tuned.