Complaints To FTC About Roca Labs Shows Company Threatening, Ignoring Unhappy Customers

from the '24/7-customer-service'-must-refer-to-the-hours-it-DOESN'T-respond-t dept

Roca Labs says it can help you lose weight by pumping your stomach full of its proprietary Fix-a-Flat-but-for-humans concoction. Once the product sets in, your stomach will have much less room for food. You'll eat less, lose weight, or spend hundreds of dollars trying!

If you find Roca Labs' product suspect or aren't happy with the results, you have a few options available. You can try to get your money back, but that seems to be a route not worth taking. You can complain about the product, but then you'll face the possibility of being sued.

Roca Labs has sued people for posting negative reviews. Roca Labs has threatened to sue people for writing about the lawsuits filed against reviewers. Roca Labs has also sued opposing lawyers, alleging some sort of internet conspiracy to ruin its "good" name. Roca Labs has also threatened to sue us two separate times. Those it hasn't sued, it has hit with bogus DMCA notices.

Judging from its recent history and the complaints filed with the FTC (acquired via FOIA request), Roca Labs appears to spend a majority of its income on marketing and litigation. Customer service expenditures seem to be hovering around $0.

First, there are the legal threats.

Very concerned as this product line is promoted as a "gastric bypass" for children, pregnant women, and overweight persons, but is a ingestible supplement.   I wrote about the product on my site, and was contacted by a lawyer in Israel and threatened to remove it or BUY three containers of the product, USE IT and rescind my posting. Absolutely NOT.

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If you as a blogger write anything about their product ads, which are incredibly outrageous, they send you a letter saying they will sue you. BUT, you can purchase the product, try it out, write a review and then they will refund your money.

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I see the 5th paragraph of section of Merchandise Return & Refund Policy seems to violate the Right of Free Speech. The 5th paragraph says and I quote:"If, for whatever reason, you become dissatisfied with The Formula or The Support, you agree not to make, write, post, distribute or disseminate in any way any negative comments about,or relating to, Roca Labs, The Formula, or The Support. This includes writing anything on the internet and making a complaint with Paypal, your credit card company, the Better Business Bureau, etc... Doing so, in light of these clear terms and conditions, would constitute breach of contract and defamation and would be actionable in Florida court. If you can cannot agree to this, The Company asks you not to purchase The Company’s product.
Sure enough, Roca Labs' Terms and Conditions contain a stupid non-disparagement clause [emphasis mine]:
You agree that regardless of your personal experience with RL, you will not disparage RL and/or any of its employees, products, or services. This means that you will not speak, publish, cause to be published, print, review, blog, or or otherwise write negatively about RL, or its products or employees in any way. This emcompasses all forms of media, including and especially the internet. This paragraph is to protect RL and its current and future customers from the harm of libelous or slanderous content in any form, and thus, your acceptance of these Terms and Conditions prohibits you from taking any action that negatively impacts RL, its reputation, products, services, management, or employees. We make it clear that RL and its Regimen may not be for everyone, and in that regard, the foregoing clause is meant to prevent “one person ruining it for everyone.” Should any customer violate this provision, as determined by RL in its sole discretion, you will be provided with seventy-two (72) hours to retract the content in question. If the content remains, RL would be obliged to seek all legal remedies to protect its name, products, current customers, and future customers.
Noted directly below it is the fact that this clause is unenforceable in California -- the only state that bans non-disparagement clauses. It appears to be linked to a discount Roca will give you should you choose to be its gastric jelly ambassador, but it's worded in a way that it affects anyone who purchases its products. If you choose to disparage the company and have signed up to spread the Roca gospel, you'll forfeit the discount. Note the phrase "should ANY customer violate this provision."

Asking for a refund seems to be impossible. Complaints detail the fact that Roca Labs apparently offers no live customer service. On top of that, the company only gives you three hours to stop the shipment of your order. Anything later than that means you'll be charged the full amount. Roca Labs justifies its "no refund" policy by claiming each shipment is made from scratch and specifically tailored to each customer. Sales and shipments are one way only. If nothing else, customers can be assured their account balances will be thinner by the end of their Roca Labs experience.
[part of a CS chat transcript included in one complaint] Roca Labs Premium Support manager Sharon K. replied Hello (b)(6), There is nothing to cancel as no other shipments are due to you. Your procedural kit was shipped in full on 11413. When you ordered you chose to pay your balance in 3 easy installments, the first payment was taken out on 11313 and you have a balance of $420, which is 2 more payments of $210. You cannot cancel paying your balance as this is what you owe for what is shipped. We are so sorry to hear about the medical condition. The return policy was made clear to you several times before you ordered. http:www.RocaLabs.com/return We will be willing to consider partial refund after all payments are made and you have provided a letter from you doctor verifying your claim. You should note that unpaid balances are forwarded to the legal department and added fees are charged which can end up in Florida court with charges totaling $3,200 or so. We trust and love our customers and hope they will never abuse the credit we extend them so they can afford the procedure. Please get also familiar with the Terms of the purchase.
There are more than 100 complaints, most of which revolve around the fact that once Roca Labs has access to your credit card information (which it acquires during its "qualification" process), your account will be charged for the entirety of the purchase, no matter what. There are no refunds, no returns and -- as its Terms and Conditions state -- the company reserves the right to charge you even more if you make your unhappiness with the product public.

Roca Labs tells customers they need to cancel within three hours of placing an order and then makes it impossible for anyone to do that.
If you wish to cancel your order before it has been shipped, you must immediately contact the Customer Care Department via the Website in writing for a full refund.
But...
Generally, Customer Care/Support is available 24 hours, 7 days a week. We will make every effort to respond to you within one (1) business day of any written contact. For your protection after your order has shipped RL requires that all contact must be in writing with Customer Care/Support through the Website ONLY.
How will you know when your three-hour clock starts? Apparently, you won't. You have to run through Roca's "qualification" process before being approved. But apparently you'll only find out if you've been approved by Roca ringing you up for the purchase you haven't agreed to yet.
Went on line 2/16/14 and did app 2 c if qualify for product. Didn't receive any correspondence or confirmation, just a 210.00 charge on my CC.

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Application' process does not exist and there is no two hour cancellation window. Your acceptance turns out to be supplying your credit card number. Using my credit card, I placed an order for Roca Lab's diet product on May 4th @ 6:04 in the morning. The website discloses a 24 hour 'approval' process. It also states that after receiving 'approval' you have a two hour window to cancel the order. In less than 12 hours, after doing further research on the company, I called customer service to cancel the order. I was advised to send an email to the company. I did that and received an email stating that ' You placed your order on date & time . Your kit went into production on 3/4/2014 6:07 AM . Cancellation can ONLY be done by contacting our support desk at: Support@RocaLabs.com within 2 hours of submitting your health application' The website does not state this in the application screen. In fact it states that cancellation can be done after being 'approved'. I never received 'approval' from the company.
The inability to speak to anyone directly is noted repeatedly in the FTC complaints.
Unable to contact a human to talk about the product effectiveness or to change payment methods.

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I have been having problems because they arent deligently answering my every questions, everything is done by email

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YOU CANNOT SPEAK TO A REAL PERSON - you get messages via email or text, no real person! I even tried contacting the manager option (option 3)and only got a message back saying they know about my call.

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Tried to contact customer service on-line but found no way to do so. Everything was directed to a Nurse which cost money to get support…

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I tried sending the product back and paid $15.62 to return it, (after calling and not being able to talk to a real person) then they would not accept it…

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Charged twice for the 'processing of application fee I found it ironic that when contacted about the additional charge and the fact that we were concerned it may be a scam that we were notified it would be addressed within 24 hours. Their policy says if you cancel within the first 2 hours that they will refund. There is no way to contact them for immediate cancellation.
Then there's this, via Adam Steinbaugh -- taken from a deposition of a former employee of Roca Labs.
Q: At what point did you believe that Roca Labs was -- did you come to believe that Roca Labs was deceptive or unethical?
A. When he asked me to dress up like a fat person so I could talk to his customers online about the product that I had never taken and about the weight loss that I had never lost because I've never been on a diet in my life.

[...]

Q. Now, when -- when you were terminated on October 25th, that followed a conversation with Mr. Juravin; correct?

A. Uh-huh.
Q. And the gist of that conversation was that you refused to sign the contract because of the nondisclosure agreement and the reduction in pay; right?
A. Yes.
Q. And in the course of that conversation you talked about the fat suit incident in connection with the nondisclosure agreement?
A. I did.
And this, which ties into Roca Labs' claims that every product it ships out is made uniquely for the person ordering it (justifying the "qualification" questionnaire and fee):
A. I don't know exactly the time period between the phone call and when I took the product. But we had not been opening the product in the beginning of my employ with him. We just started opening the product towards -- I guess into October he got a second shipment that was not -- he thought it had too much product. So he wanted to take some out and put it in smaller bags and that concerned me when I saw that he was opening the powder.

[...]

A: I just thought that really shouldn't be -- you know, a product that people consume shouldn't be taken out of their packaging and repackaged without any type of sanitary handling of it. The handling of the product was not sanitary at all and there was roaches on the floor and dust everywhere, cars were being parked in the garage. You know, there was nothing sanitary about any of it.
From the FTC complaints:
I received a box that looked like it had been tampered with and when I emailed them about it, they said that I am just 'claiming that'.
The 100+ complaints lodged with the FTC are likely only a small fraction of those actually displeased with the company and its no-refund policy. Its Terms and Conditions have probably deterred others from speaking out, what with the threat of being charged even more for a product that they don't want constantly hanging over their heads. With this in mind, it's tough to take any positive reviews of Roca Labs seriously. Instead, they take the appearance of gunpoint cheeriness, where "participants" have the "option" of vehemently praising the company or watching an additional $500-1000 disappear from their bank accounts.






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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 May 2015 @ 12:52pm

    Yay. More roca labs please.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 May 2015 @ 12:59pm

    and this operation is still doing business because?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Vidiot (profile), 7 May 2015 @ 1:47pm

    Meet the Juravins

    Don Juravin (the puppeteer behind the Roca organization) uses his Wordpress site to campaign against unjustified defamation: "First Amendment Should Not Be Abused For Slander"

    He must be sincere, since he's posted a family picture with his lovely wife, multiple, non-obese daughters, and -- best of all -- a giant American flag.

    http://juravin.com/

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 May 2015 @ 1:56pm

    Copy a few infringing files and bam, SWAT teams at your door, you're going to court, all your money is gone and all of your assets forfeited.

    Participate in large-scale fraud and nothing happens.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 May 2015 @ 2:13pm

    Wow!

    So...
    The FTC considers you (and by extension TD) a 'member of the news media' and not a bunch of scruffy neckbearded bloggers;

    The FTC does not charge FOIA fees if they are able to 'respond electronically';

    You're enjoying the undeniably bucolic pleasures of Brandon, SD, because everybody else moved as soon as they could.
    For the first two points: human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, the federal government actually making sense...mass hysteria!

    For the third point: Brandon's a pretty nice place.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), 7 May 2015 @ 3:10pm

      Re: Wow!

      Well, I guess Roca knows where to serve their next lawsuit. ;)

      Brandon is actually a pretty good town, even if it's located in a state that isn't all that great.

      Also: the FTC has an incredibly fast turnaround time on these requests: usually within 5 days of request submission.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    wshuff (profile), 7 May 2015 @ 2:17pm

    I recall a movie with (I think) Michael Keaton and Henry Winkler where Fonzie ends up strapped down and some bad guys were going to shove a firehose in his mouth and turn it on. I'd like to see somebody strap Juravin down and force a gallon or so of this abdominal concrete into his gullet.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DOlz (profile), 7 May 2015 @ 4:22pm

    And yet

    I’d still rather deal with them than Comcast.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 May 2015 @ 7:26am

    These customers should learn how to do a chargeback. Enough of those and the CC comps might cut them off.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 May 2015 @ 2:18pm

    Techdirt criterion for covering fraud:

    (1) It's over the internet.

    (2) There's a suppression-of-speech element.

    Keep up the good work!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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