FTC Sues Business For Using “Gag Clause” Against Consumers

The Federal Trade Commission has filed a lawsuit against Florida-based company Roca Labs, which allegedly threatened to enforce “gag clause” provisions against consumers to stop them from posting negative reviews and testimonials online.

The FTC alleges in its complaint that Roca Labs and their principles have threatened legal action and in some cases actually filed suit against customers who posted negative reviews or complained to the Better Business Bureau about the quality of various “weight loss pills” and diet supplements they purchased.  According to the complaint, Roca Labs took the position that such conduct violated the non-disparagement provisions included in the “terms of service” that consumers agreed to when they purchased products from Roca Labs.  According to the FTC, Roca Labs’ efforts to enforce such “gag clauses” adversely affect consumers by prohibiting purchasers from sharing truthful negative comments about Roca Labs and their products.  Therefore, such efforts constitute “unfair business practices.”

According to the Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, Jessica Rich, “rock Labs had an adversarial relationship with the truth.  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 voting commission that authorizes the FTC to file suit authorized action against Roca Labs with a unanimous 4-0 vote.  The FTC filed the lawsuit on September 24, 2015 in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.  The lawsuit, if successful, would be the first of its kind prosecuted by the FTC.