Though the retail world has its share of shady dealers, direct-to-consumer sellers of dietary supplements are most often accused of being the snake oil shills. And nowhere is snake oil writ larger than on the internet.
Misspelled banner ads, pop-ups, affiliate websites, error-laden spam—these shady (yet somehow lucrative) practices are priorities on the Federal Trade Commission’s hit list, especially those websites that put financially-at-risk consumers in jeopardy by offering free trials that turn into continuity programs without consumers’ consent.
To that end, FTC busted several affiliate marketers of açaí weight-loss supplements in April 2011 for, among other infractions, offering bogus free trials.
While evidence would suggest that online turbulence is doing little to slow the growth of internet supplement sales, spammers do erode the market’s credibility.
But this issue isn’t isolated to the supplement industry—the drug market too has its problem websites, to the extent that the Food & Drug Administration recently launched a public awareness campaign, BeSafeRx, to combat it.
While online Viagra discounters haven’t been subject to the same high-profile busts as açaí marketers lately, the government is recognizing the danger.
For more on the FDA’s reaction to illegal drug sites, see this story from The Atlantic.
And share your thoughts: Should FDA be doing more to control the proliferation of sketchy pharma and supplement websites?