Le-Vel sue blogger, demand review be taken down
In October of 2015, the blog LazyMan And Money published a Le-Vel review titled “Is Le-vel Thrive a Scam?”
At the time of publication, Lazy Man’s review is the top listing on Google for the search “le-vel review”.
The review delves into Le-Vel’s Thrive patch product, raising potential issues with the FTC and a lack of clinical trials.
Analysis of Le-Vel’s other offered products include cost analysis, value for money, the lack of disclosure Le-Vel’s “proprietary blends” have.
A number of sources are cited in Lazy Man’s review, including excerpts from the FTC and consumer-advocate publications.
Based on the pricing of Le-Vel’s products being “banana pants crazy”, Lazy Man asserts the requirement that Le-Vel affiliates ‘buy product yourself or sell enough of it each month‘ will mean affiliates ‘are typically going to be left paying for‘ products themselves, ‘which makes (Le-Vel) look like a Pay to Play scheme‘.
The compensation plan clearly focuses the rewards on people with the most volume in their downline, not sales to outside people.
According to these FTC guidelines, that focus would appear to make Thrive a pyramid scheme.
Social media marketing by Le-Vel affiliates also comes under fire, with Lazy Man exhibiting a coordinated Facebook marketing campaign directed to “Le-Vel leaders”.
The nature of the “planned post campaign” is naturally not disclosed to the general public, with it supposed to look like an organic marketing effort.
Rounding out the review, Lazy Man concludes:
Between the extremely expensive products, dubious marketing, and what appears to be a pyramid scheme (see aforementioned FTC guidelines), I think it is clear that Le-vel Thrive is a scam.
Le-Vel evidently aren’t too happy about the exposure Lazy Man’s review has been getting, with a cease and desist sent to the blog on January 18th.
On behalf of Le-Vel, their attorneys accused Lazy Man of ‘making disparaging, false, and defamatory statements about Le-Vel and its THRIVE product line‘.
Le-Vel’s attorneys went on to reduce a decade of Lazy Man blog posts to a
business model of using the name of a well-known network marketing company next to the word “scam” in order to drive internet traffic.
Indeed, it appears Le-Vel objected to the title of Lazy Man’s review, which literally raised the question of whether Le-Vel was a scam.
Specifically, that Lazy Man made
statements or assertions that Le-Vel: incentivizes its Promoters to make misrepresentations; is violating FTC guidelines and regulations; is illegally violating FDA marketing restrictions; is an illegal pyramid scheme; is a scam; is not a legitimate business; supports Promoters who do not perform any function other than pyramid scheme recruiting; sets up its Promoters for failure as “a [m]athematical [c]ertainty”; is overcharging people by fifty times, for hundreds of dollars per year; sells THRIVE patches that are placebos with no ingredients; and sells THRIVE M supplements that are incomplete multivitamins.
These statements, Le-Vel contends, have ‘prejudice(d) and injure(d) Le-Vel’s business, are defamatory per se under both Texas and Massachusetts law‘.
Further, your defamatory statements are verifiably false.
For instance, Le-Vel is not an illegal pyramid scheme, charges no fees or upfront costs to enroll as a Promoter, and is highly focused on customer acquisitions, providing a rewards plan that emphasizes retail sales of valuable and effective products.
Moreover, Le-Vel promulgates and enforces detailed policies and procedures to ensure that statements regarding its products are accurate and compliant with FDA and FTC guidelines and regulations, and that its Promoters do not make medical or drug claims in association with Le-Vel’s products.
In our own Le-Vel review, I noted that Le-Vel’s price-points might be restrictive. Overall though there did seem to be a significant effort to encourage retail sales.
Effort alone however doesn’t drive retail sales, with disclosure (or discovery) of Le-Vel’s retail sales figures required to make a concrete determination either way.
While Le-Vel respects First Amendment freedoms, it also respects the laws of the United States.
Therefore, we write both to inform you of your violations of Texas and Massachusetts law and to protect Le-Vel’s legal interests under those laws by demanding that you take immediate action to cure your violations.
Le-Vel went on to demand Lazy Man take down their review.
In answer to the cease and desist, Lazy Man claimed the content of the review was an opinion.
Moreover, the context of the Article must be considered as well.
The context of the Article is a blog published on the Internet where (Lazy Man) regularly posts his opinions, ideas and comments about consumer products and their prices for the express purpose of saving consumers money.
The Article is not defamatory because it is based on (Lazy Man’s) opinion which is based on disclosed, non defamatory facts, most of which are quoted and cited to in the Article.
In addition, all other statements in your list of “disparaging and defamatory statements,” are similarly based on links to other sources including the FTC and FDA websites and are (Lazy Man’s) opinions about those disclosed facts.
Indeed, many of his opinions cite to, quote and link to Le-Vel’s own online product brochures and Facebook page.
Citing “earlier articles” that questioned the value of Thrive in a similar fashion to Lazy Man’s review, Lazy Man’s attorney contended ‘it would be nearly impossible to show that any “damages” suffered by your client are causally related‘ to the Lazy Man review.
How much Lazy Man’s review might have injured and prejudiced Le-Vel was not clarified in their cease and desist. The company stated only that
although your defamatory statements have damaged and continue to damage Le-Vel, Le-Vel need not prove damages, which are presumed to flow from the statements themselves.
Sounds pretty convenient to me.
Maintaining that they didn’t agree with Le-Vel’s accusations, Lazy Man nonetheless offered to ‘work with (Le-Vel) to address their complaints in a manner that respects his First Amendment rights.‘
Le-Vel responded the next day, again demanding Lazy Man take down their review.
For reasons unknown Lazy Man wasn’t given any time to respond, with Le-Vel filing a lawsuit in Texas later that day.
Le-Vel is not a fraud, a scam, or an illegal pyramid scheme.
Nevertheless, when Le-Vel asked (Lazy Man) to remove his defamatory article, he not only refused, but he continued to post new defamatory statements about Le-Vel.
Therefore, Le-Vel seeks to recover damages for (Lazy Man’s) malicious defamation and disparagement, and seeks a permanent injunction requiring (Lazy Man) to remove his defamatory publications.
Le-Vel are seeking ‘monetary relief over $1,000,000 and a permanent injunction’ against Lazy Man, which if granted would see them required to take down their review.
Lazy Man publicly announced the filing of the lawsuit earlier today, in a blog post titled “Le-Vel is Suing Me to Silence Criticism“.
Last year a reader wrote me to ask about Le-Vel Thrive.
I decided it was worth looking into and the result was (an) article on Le-Vel Thrive.
My article aimed to educate people on MLM and pyramid schemes similar to Truth in Advertising’s article on The Thrive Experience.
For the most part, I simply stuck to quoting the FTC guidelines on MLM and pyramid schemes and giving my opinion based on those guidelines.
At this stage Lazy Man intends to fight the suit, but acknowledges that he is yet
to find a lawyer in Texas.
Thus far, I haven’t one willing to work on the contingency of winning to get their fees. It’s hard to ask them to take the risk of perhaps working for no money at all.
On the other hand, defending such a lawsuit can run tens of thousands of dollars. Lawyers are typically paid several hundred dollars per hour and it adds up quickly.
To mitigate some of those costs, Lazy Man has called upon his readers to support the blog through a GoFundMe campaign.
I ask that you give what you can to support free speech. If you can’t give anything, please share it on Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, and anything else you might use like InstaChat or SnapGram.
Finally, if you happened to know a lawyer in Texas who is willing to work on contingency and/or a news organization please put me in touch with them.
Thank you for your support.
We’re now almost one thousand five hundred words into this article, so I’ll try to keep my own thoughts on the lawsuit brief.
First and foremost I think that Le-Vel’s response to the review is pretty overbearing. A million dollar lawsuit… really?
Had they of continued a dialogue with Lazy Man instead of running off to court, I think a compromise might have been reached.
Specifically a point of contention on Le-Vel’s behalf appears to revolve around the use of the word “scam”, and all that implies in the world of MLM.
I want to emphasize that last part, by pointing out the word “scam” is pretty vague. What I think is a scam, what Lazy Man thinks is a scam, what Le-Vel thinks is a scam and even what a court might deem a scam, could be drastically different.
Ditto the implications of those meanings, and how others might perceive them (with respect to their own ideas of what is or isn’t a scam).
For that primary reason you’ll rarely see me use the word here on BehindMLM. Not because I’m worried about getting sued over its use, but because I think a review demands a higher level of precision.
This I feel however is point of contention that could have easily been worked out between the two parties.
Malice on the part of Lazy Man towards Le-Vel, at least with respect to the original review as published, seems to be a non-issue.
As to the rest of it, I think there’s merit to what Lazy Man have brought up in their review. Analysis of Le-Vel’s products is certainly not, on face-value, defamatory.
This also goes for cost-analysis, which lends itself to discussion of whether or not Le-Vel might be operating as a pyramid scheme. That line of thought differs to BehindMLM’s review of Le-Vel, but that doesn’t mean in and of itself it’s defamatory.
The cynic in me wants to dismiss Le-Vel’s lawsuit as sour grapes over Google rankings. Anyone can ascertain that Lazy Man’s review is prominent in searches relating to Le-Vel.
But while rankings sour grapes might very well play a large role in their hastiness to file a lawsuit, I do think there may be a case to answer for regarding Lazy Man’s assertion that Le-Vel is a scam.
I also think Le-Vel might be looking at Lazy Man’s settlement with LifeVantage and thinking that, with minimal effort, they might be able to get the same result.
Overall there’s a lot to ponder and, at least personally, I found it a complicated suit to cover. I suspect much of it will come down to Lazy Man being able to defend the lawsuit financially, which is a shame.
On the other hand bloggers don’t often have thousands of dollars to throw at lawsuits (which Le-Vel are no doubt aware of), so there is that.
What are your thoughts?
Did Lazy Man cross the line in his review? Are Le-Vel demanding too much? Was there room for compromise prior to the lawsuit being filed?
Update 28th March 2017 – On March 23rd the Texas District Court of Appeals overturned a trial court’s decision and dismissed Le-Vel’s lawsuit.
I realize some people take issue with the word “scam”, but it is something that I’ve heard very often such as in one of my favorite movies, Say Anything (imdb.com/title/tt0098258/quotes?item=qt0367524).
Nonetheless, like Oz said here “scam” means different things to different people. It has been repeatedly shown in courts to be a matter of opinion. I wrote this article to clarify my use of the word – lazymanandmoney.com/what-is-a-scam-anyway/.
I haven’t found another word that succinctly expresses my opinion, so my hope is that people at least read that disclosure (which is prominently linked in the article) for my opinion.
I am of the opinion that very few retail sales are likely to occur of most MLM products. I explain 3 major reasons why in this article: mlmmyth.org/why-would-anyone-buy-an-mlm-product/.
I appreciate the level of precision that Oz uses in his posts. My schedule doesn’t afford me the time to due detailed analysis on compensations plans that are, in my opinion, designed to be purposely complex.
I prefer to focus on product value, which is the core principle for many of non-MLM articles. Yes, it is subjective, but that’s kind of the point behind me writing my opinion.
Many of the complaints in the lawsuit are “by implication”, which to me means that it is their opinion of the article rather than what I actually wrote. Maybe I’m wrong there?
A better question is… Is Le-vel really in texas, and if so, does the texas Anti-SLAPP law apply here?
I’ve been approached by several people to buy or start selling this product. The testimonials are out of this world! Everybody raves and raves about how great they feel after using it, and how much energy they have.
Well, of course they do!! If you read the ingredients, there are FIVE SOURCES OF CAFFEINE IN IT!! egads
Going forward, perhaps look at what’s behind your opinion that something is a scam, and just refer to that for what it is. If they’re being dishonest about products, call them out for being dishonest.
If it’s misleading, call them out for being misleading. “Scam” is a too broad a generic term these days and I think, as reviewers, we can do a whole lot better.
And the products are being sold at a price point where the company can run what amounts to a buy two get one free deal and payout multi level commissions on top of that.
@LazyMan, I’m very sorry this is being done to you. Le-Vel is so concerned with defending their “Brand image” that it would be a shame if you paid the price in exposing them for a bunch of SLAPP happy bullies.
I hope someone will talk some sense into them before this gets completely out of hand because quite frankly any real or even honestly perceived problems with your review could have been resolved far more amicably without the expense of the near preemptive lawsuit.
I never really looked at Le-Vel before reading this, their website is squeaky clean so you have to go to social media to hear their real sales pitch.
Too many reps repeating too many similar phrases for it to be coincidence. UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) found something to that effect last year.
Is VIP 800/1600 Le-Vel speak for YPR?
They keep bragging about how there is zero cost to join the Le-Vel opportunity, I wonder if that means their definitions for difference between a customer and income seeker are as flexible as Vemma’s were before someone outside the company took a good look at the books.
Hey, if nothing else comes out of the suit maybe we all get a good look at Le-Vel’s books.
Might be the time to do some digging.
i read through macfarland’s article ‘Is Le-vel Thrive a Scam?’and for starters, the title itself is not ‘asserting as fact’ that le-vel is a scam, as alleged by the complaint.
even in the body of the article, it is hard not to notice the generous sprinkling of non assertive ‘opinions’ like – ‘i think’, ‘appear to’, ‘seems like’, ‘may be’ etc. examples from the article:
so, where does le-vel get off claiming in its lawsuit that: ” MacFarland published numerous written statements to the public on the internet, asserting as fact that…” ??
That might be a good point about Le-Vel being in Texas. I’ll have to look into that.
The point is well taken about the word scam.
I form my opinion by a combination of the things that I find. If I were to say that a company was dishonest in its pricing they might be able to say, “our distributors, not us, are responsible for pricing and hence you are giving false fact and defaming us.”
I feel safer using a broad term of opinion that I can say still applies. I suppose I could leave out this conclusion, but a final conclusion really helps tie things together.
I don’t think removal of the word would have saved me from the lawsuit. If so, they would save themselves tens of thousands in legal fees and simply ask me to remove or change it. I believe it is more about criticism in the Google rankings as you mention in the article.
This is a very interesting predicament. If you truly state your opinion (which I believe is obvious in your blog), then how in the world can they sue you for that?
There is one sentence in the review were you do state that they are a scam, however in the sentence prior you even say that they “appear to be a pyramid scheme”. It makes it apparent that you are stating your opinion.
In a strange way the excessive approach to which Le-Vel is concerned about your influence, makes me think that their comments are somewhat of a compliment to you and a diss to anyone considering the Le-Vel opportunity.
Here is what it sounds like they are saying in layman’s terms to others….:
And to you? What are they saying? To me it sounds like this:
Honestly? If you’re not a scam like Le-Vel wants people to know, then why bother with the naysayers?
If they are that focused ON SUCCESS, your blog is just a drop in the bucket. (No offense at all to your blog…but any success minded individual or leader I have ever known sees even negative attention as an opportunity to focus on making their company better.)
AND… furthermore… what is crazy is that they seem to lack the forethought of the further damage that they are causing their own reputation by pursuing your blog as the source of their downfall.
Do they really have that much lack of faith that their own leaders and clients can’t think for themselves?
Their actions speak for themselves in this instance.
Although I believe that your reviews are sometimes biased (THEY ARE ALLOWED TO BE…it’s your blog), I just can’t see where a company can sue you for your opinion.
(Disclaimer: I know nothing. Don’t listen to me. If you question what I write, that’s good. Form your own opinion…etc…etc….)
That sort of SEO will backfire. The news that you got sued for speaking will overwhelm the search results
I do say that based on the disclosed information that “I think” it is a scam… with scam being broadly defined in my conversational tone such as in the Say Anything quote that I mentioned in the previous comment.
I purposely researched “scam” to ensure that it is libelous in courts as I cite in this article: lazymanandmoney.com/what-is-a-scam-anyway/.
Thanks for the supportive comment. As for my article being biased, I’ve spent about 9 years now covering MLMs and have read and responded to probably more than 20,000 reader comments on MLM.
I came in as a blank slate and now have an informed opinion. I believe I am unbiased as I’m not paid by anyone for my views.
I hope you are right.
when I typed in the name of the company I represent I saw many headlines using the word scam.
the article was well written and informative, sad to see you going through all this just because a company became all butt-hurt over your review.
@ Lazy Man and Money
Did Le-Vel ask you to retract some of your comments in your article prior to going all legal on you?
In general these SLAPP threats go for the everything and the kitchen sink: they want your entire website taken down and you can NEVER EVER talk about them again on ANY media.
They know they won’t get it, but it’s the Door-in-face technique at work. They will appear to be more… reasonable when they ask for something more limited.
I think Tracy Coenen had a run-in with the Medifast quacks way back when. Cost her 200K to fight it… but she did win after many many years and got awarded court costs, but that’s because she had Radanzza Law’s help, IIRC.
Then you will have to point out something like “while company has recommended price, individual distributors can set their own price if they choose to. We do not know whether there are any penalties for not following the recommended price.”
Giving inaccurate facts are not always defamation. You have to utter “demonstrably false” facts (i.e. you knew or should have known) what you wrote/said/whatever was false. Most writers don’t say outright something is a scam. They usually either make a analogy, or outright say “it is my opinion that…”
Coenen and Fitzpatrick wrote about Medifast ““Like… Madoff’s secret trading system, Medifast dazzles its prospects with the classic and indecipherable MLM pay plan, showing the potential of an income with ‘no cap.’” back in 2010. Medifast sued them claiming that they called Medifast a Ponzi scheme, but they merely compared Medifast to one, and only the “indecipherable” aspect of it.
Ethan Vanderbilt, on the other just simply prefaced everything with “in my opinion…”, and he’s careful about not leaving statements out there that could “reasonably” interpreted as factual.
I personally think Le-Vel has no case, but you should be more careful in your wording of such views from now on.
Any updates on the lawsuit against Lazy Man? Also, have people been filing health issues against Le Vel Thrive?
Watch the Lazy Man blog for immediate updates. I’ll try to cover anything significant as it occurs.
I heard that there was a law suit against Le-Vel for someone who died after taking the supplements. I also heard that the founders are trying to sell the business or cash out in another way.
This business, in my opinion, isn’t what they say it is and when Lazy Man wrote his article, he really struck a nerve and the defensiveness with which Le-Vel is acting, makes me think there is something to hide.
I will enjoy watching Le-Vel continue to self destruct.
Its a scam %100. I ordered the product, never arrived. Confirmed they had correct address, then they would not return my $300.
After repeadtely asking for my refund, 2 months, I called my bank they did an investigation only to be promised to get $200 back as they have a restocking fee! Which is their fault as I never received the product!
Thrive will not thrive here in Vancouver BC.
Why not test the bioavailability of the patches that Level sels… I bet we would be surprised with the data…
My guess absorption is erratic and minimal. Im a physician and a pharmacist… I would love to assist you with your lawsuit.
Here are the statements that I would be concerned with:
these are stated as fact not opinion. Can you prove that THRIVE patches are placebos? And how can a multivitamin be “incomplete”? If it contains more than one vitamin it would seem to be defined as a multivitamin per se?
You will need an expert to testify regarding the mathematical certainty of failure.
I am pointing out to you the areas that I believe may be of concern in your defense. It is very important to your use of the opinion defense that you preface these type of statements as your opinion.
In my humble opinion, you should not take this lightly or be nonchalant in your defense.