Questions for Valley nutritional company

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by Meredith Yeomans

azfamily.com

Posted on February 25, 2010 at 9:17 PM

Updated Wednesday, Mar 3 at 12:40 PM

AcaiPure, ColoPure, Hoodia Star, Hoodia Water, GreenTea Extreme, the list goes on and on.

Not long ago, health conscious consumers couldn't get enough of these nutritional supplements from Phoenix-based Central Coast Nutraceuticals, but then came the warnings from the Arizona Attorney General's Office and the Better Business Bureau accusing the online nutritional company of violating the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act.

The allegations: That the company advertises risk free trial offers, but then charges customers “for costly products and services they did not request.”

According to the Attorney General, "When consumers tried to contact CCN regarding unauthorized charges, they often faced hold times over an hour and their emails never received a response."

Last summer, the AG reached a $1.375 million settlement with Central Coast Nutraceuticals, but employee Chris Eckhard says questionable business practices continue.

“Anyone that's returned their product we have to sit and lie on the telephone and tell them they're going to get a refund when they're not,” he said.

Eckhard, who admits that he's upset with the company because of a pay reduction, came to 3 On Your Side because, he says, he's even more concerned with customer being misled.

He showed us a screen shot of what he says a customer's account looks like.

In this case, it appears the customer has called 16 times since October asking about a $60 refund.

Eckhard claims the customer was told the refund was being processed when - in reality - he says, it was all a runaround.

3 On Your Side wanted ask owner Graham Gibson about accusations that he's withholding customer's money. We tried to approach him outside his business in the Biltmore area.

“Anything you want to say to kind of clear the…?” our producer asked.
“If you turn the cameras off I'll answer a couple questions,” Gibson said.
“Well, we're kind of a TV station though,” our producer replied.
“Yeah, I know you're a TV station,” Gibson said.
“So, I mean, what's the problem with having it on the record?” our producer asked.
“All questions you have can go through our legal counsel,” Gibson said.

That's all he would say before getting in his Maserati and taking off.

Gibson's legal counsel tells 3 On Your Side the credit card processor cut them off a couple of months ago because they are considered higher risk.  According to their attorney, that significantly limits their ability to issue refunds.

But the question remains: Are they being up front with customers?

At least one employee says no.

And while he wouldn't stop and talk when we approached him outside his business, Gibson later told us by phone, Central Coast Nutraceuticals is dedicated to customer service, and that the company is working with the Attorney General to comply with consumer fraud laws.

The Attorney General's Office says CCN is adhering to the guidelines of their settlement.

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