First posted on October 26, 2014.
It has just been all too, too much to follow, especially from the distance I’ve had to keep from the whole thing — a small distance, mind you, as I’ll explain. But really, all the fun is taking place in Florida, a somewhat larger distance, excepting by email, see, and —
Well, as I said. It’s almost too much to follow. The “it” is the rollicking litigation carnival brought to our good friends at PissedConsumer.com by the world-famous Roca Labs. And yes, it is too much too follow, but by the grace of the Internet there’s Popehat, and he’s done the hard work for me, to wit:
[D]uring the month that I was consumed by trial, a case arose that appears scripted — a case that seems intelligently designed with stock characters, movie-villain behavior, and hilarity.
I speak of Roca Labs vs. anyone who speaks ill of them.
Roca Labs is in the weight-loss business. As near as I can tell from its website —check it out yourself — Roca markets an alternative to various weight-loss surgeries: a substance that you consume to fill your stomach, thus reducing appetite and available pizza space. The graphics of the Roca Labs substance remind me of the psychomagnotheric slime from Ghostbusters II, but I want to emphasize that I know of no evidence that Roca Labs’ product has any supernatural properties.
Yet the arcane and unnatural plays a role in Roca Labs’ approach to the market — in the form of an unnaturally ridiculous approach to criticism.
Roca Labs apparently has a clause in at least some of its purchase contracts that forbids customers from criticizing it or its products. Here’s how they describe it, openly, in one of their filings:
In exchange for a significant discount (discounts average $800) customers contractually agree that, regardless of their outcome, they will not speak, publish, print, blog, or write negatively about Roca or its products in any forum.
Now, I think you’d have to be quite stupid to agree not to criticize the person who is providing you with medicinal substances, but then we are talking about a population that has decided to consume large volumes of pink slime to lose weight.
Those “I won’t criticize” clauses rarelyendwell. But Roca Labs is optimistic, to put it mildly. They’ve sued Pissedconsumer.com on a theory that I will call “novel” because “bat&#@! crazy” is rude. Roca Labs says that Pissedconsumer.com is interfering with their contractual relations with their clients by allowing the clients to post complaints about Roca Labs. That’s their attempt to evade the protections of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which generally immunizes sites from suits over what their visitors post. Roca Labs is even seeking a preliminary injunction to force PissedConsumer.com to take down the critical posts, a classic case of unconstitutional prior restraint.
Marc Randazza is representing Pissedconsumer.com. As you would guess, that is not a happy development for Roca Labs. Randazza kicks the &#@! out of Roca Labs’ ridiculous demand for prior restraint, and in the course of doing so provides a swarm of BBB complaints, declarations from unhappy customers, and a rather unflattering review by a doctor.
But wait — there’s more! Read More…