Case #96-2022: Government Referral – ViSalus, Inc.
BBB NATIONAL PROGRAMS
The Direct Selling Self-Regulatory Council
Case Number 96-2022: Government Referral – ViSalus, Inc. (a/k/a Vi)
I. Company Description
ViSalus, Inc., a/k/a Vi (“ViSalus” or the “Company”) is a multilevel marketing (MLM) company based in Los Angeles, California, with offices in Michigan. The company was founded in 2005 and markets weight management nutritional products, dietary supplements, and energy drinks in the United States, Canada, Italy, and the United Kingdom.
II. Basis of Inquiry
The Direct Selling Self-Regulatory Council (“DSSRC”) is a national advertising self-regulation program administered by BBB National Programs.
This inquiry was commenced by DSSRC pursuant to its ongoing independent monitoring of advertising in the direct selling marketplace and concerns product and earnings claims disseminated by the Company and its salesforce members.
The representative claims that formed the basis of this inquiry are set forth below.
- Before and after image of weight loss with copy stating “one year results!! But non scale victories including fibromyalgia free, and insomnia free, and almost migraine free!!! I have ran multiple 5k’s, ran/walk a 10k, and working on running a complete 10k!!”
- “Helping people gain their life back. Nutrition for Diabetes, fibromyalgia, cancer, arthritis, and pregnant people.”
- Before and after image of weight loss with copy stating “No more aches and pains, and no more blood pressure medication! I feel great and have a tons of energy!!!”
- “Migraine free for 5 years because of this product.”
- Image of medications and before and after image of weight loss with copy stating “This is what I am talking about! 90 pounds down and off all those drugs for MS, Fibromyalgia, high blood pressure, cholesterol, etc.”
- “I made up to $12,000 a month with visalus and some people think that’s a lot!!!! I know people in the mlm industry making 250k a month!!!!!!”
- “Stop working long hours for little pay with only a slight possibility of retirement in your future. If you are sick of your Boss or just tired of living paycheck to paycheck this is Your Sign. Join the #1 home-based business today starting part time and earn 3,5,10k a month and up in Residual income.”
- “Earn a Free Brand New BMW company lease bonus”
- “Work Full Time or Part time; Weekly & Monthly Income Streams; Multiple Levels of Residual Income; Incentives and Bonuses, Bummer Club & Vacations”
- “there is a large amount of money to be made through Body by Vi product sales;” [13:14] Average Income: $12,000 – unlimited!
- “It’s easy to do. I do this part time and I make an extra 500-1000+ a month. More time you have the more you can make!!”
DSSRC expressed its concern that the product claims at issue communicate the inaccurate and unsupported claim that ViSalus products can treat or provide relief for serious health-related conditions including diabetes, fibromyalgia, cancer, arthritis, and migraine headaches. Moreover, DSSRC determined that the subject earnings claims convey the message that participants in the Company’s business opportunity can generally expect to earn significant (i.e., full-time) income.
III. Company’s Non-Participation in the DSSRC Process
On October 7, 2022, DSSRC sent a Notice of Inquiry by email and USPS 2-day mail to ViSalus at both its Michigan address as well as its North American headquarters located in Orford, Canada. DSSRC also contacted the 1-888-800-7079 telephone number listed on the Company website.1 The call went to voicemail and a message was left for the Company’s legal department advising ViSalus of the DSSRC inquiry along with contact information.
After the Company failed to respond to the telephone message or provide a response within 15 business days, DSSRC continued to try to contact the Company and sent a 10-day notice by email and USPS 2-day mail to ViSalus on November 1, 2022 and November 21, 2022 indicating that, if the Company failed to provide a response to DSSRC regarding the claims within 10 business days, the matter would be referred to the appropriate government agency.
Notwithstanding the additional opportunities to respond to DSSRC’s inquiry, the Company again failed to respond. DSSRC called the Company again on November 21, 2022, to advise it of the impending government referral and to try to initiate dialogue with ViSalus. The Company again failed to contact DSSRC or provide any support for the product and earnings claims at issue. DSSRC has also confirmed that all of the social media posts at issue remain active and accessible to the public.
IV. Referral to the Government
DSSRC determined that a number of aggressive product and earnings claims were being disseminated by ViSalus salesforce members on social media, including claims that the Company’s products can treat or provide relief for a number of serious, health-related conditions including diabetes, fibromyalgia, cancer, arthritis, and migraine headaches. Moreover, DSSRC determined that the subject earnings claims convey the message that participants in the Company’s business opportunity can generally expect to earn significant and career-level income.
As stated in the DSSRC Guidance on Earnings Claims for the Direct Selling Industry, it is misleading for a direct selling company and/or its salesforce members to make any earnings claims unless the direct selling company and/or its salesforce members have a reasonable basis for its claim at the time the claim is made and have documentation that substantiates the claim at the time the claim is made.2
DSSRC remains concerned with the earnings claims that were communicated by the Company’s salesforce members. While DSSRC will evaluate any claim based upon the context in which the claim appears and the potential net impression of such claim to the audience, some words and phrases are prohibited when made to a general audience of prospective or current salesforce members. Such words and phrases include statements such as “unlimited income.” DSSRC was further concerned with claims suggesting that Company salesforce members can earn up to $10,000 or more a month in residual income while working part-time at ViSalus and that salesforce members can generally expect to earn a free, brand new BMW lease bonus when participating in the Company’s business opportunity.
Moreover, as DSSRC has noted in previous inquiries, the Federal Trade Commission’s (“FTC”) standard of competent and reliable scientific evidence has been defined in FTC case law as "tests, analyses, research, studies, or other evidence based on the expertise of professionals in the relevant area, that has been conducted and evaluated in an objective manner by persons qualified to do so, using procedures generally accepted in the profession to yield accurate and reliable results.”3
In accordance with section (V)(C)(4) of the DSSRC Policies and Procedures, in the event the company whose marketing is the subject of a DSSRC inquiry fails to participate in the self-regulatory process, DSSRC may refer the matter to an appropriate government agency for review and possible law enforcement action.
Accordingly, based upon ViSalus’ failure to respond to the self-regulatory inquiry and address DSSRC’s concerns, this matter has been referred this matter to the FTC and the California State Attorneys General Office.
 See http://www.visalus-store.com/.
 See the DSSRC Guidance on Earnings Claims for the Direct Selling Industry; https://bbbnp-bbbp-stf-use1-01.s3.amazonaws.com/docs/default-source/dssrc/dssrc_guidanceonearningsclaimsforthedirectsellingindustry.pdf. See, e.g. Vital Basics, Inc., C-4107 (Consent April 26, 2004); see also In Re Schering Corp., 118 F.T.C. 1030, 1123 (1994).