The company behind an alleged scam medical conference held in Melbourne earlier this year has been banned from making false claims in online advertising it uses to lure customers.
The US District Court District of Nevada approved a preliminary injunction sought by the US trade watchdog which prohibits Conference Series, OMICS Group and iMedPub – and the companies’ director Srinubabu Gedela – from making misrepresentations about their international conferences and online journals.
The injunction will have ramifications for all online marketing by the India-based companies, which the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) alleges have ripped off consumers to the tune of over $26 million through “unfair and deceptive practices”.
OMICS publishes 700 open-access journals and Conference Series runs thousands of conferences across the globe.
The company, which is advertising 52 conferences in Australia in 2018, has already been the subject of at least two complaints to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
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Legal documents show the court made a preliminary finding that the companies engaged in misrepresentations regarding their conferences and journal publishing by:
- Advertising the attendance of prominent academics at conferences when these individuals never agreed to take part, then failing to remove their names until threatened with legal action.
- Deceptively failing to disclose the fees they charged to publish work, then ignoring authors’ requests to withdraw articles and continuing to demand payment
- Misrepresenting the impact factors of their journals which were based on a Google Scholar search
- Advertising academics as “editors” on websites without their permission and failing to remove their names when requested
- Using journal names that are nearly identical to respected journal titles, which has led some academics to mistakenly submit articles.
Gregory Ashe, senior staff attorney at the FTC, told the limbic the injunction will remain in place until the case goes to trial next year, at which point the agency will seek a permanent injunction and financial relief.
Mr Ashe said while the injunction was made by a US court, its directive applies to the companies’ online marketing material anywhere in the world it is being accessed.
Conference Series is advertising conferences in Australia next year covering medical specialties including rheumatology, endocrinology, gastroenterology, oncology and cardiology.
The limbic contacted OMICS and Conference Series but had not received a response at the time of publication.
The ACCC is “reviewing the FTC action and implications for Australia”, a spokesman said.