Undoit threatens to sue Harvey
Posted 16 July 2012
The maker of controversial diet pill Undoit has threatened to sue activist Ken Harvey for defamation over remarks he made about the product on ABC radio.
The company’s solicitors have written to Dr Harvey alleging that statements he made on the ABC radio program PM on May 30 defamed Undoit.com.au Pty Ltd and its Director, Michael Romm. “As well as being inaccurate, we are instructed that a number of the statements published by you defamed the character of both of our clients,” the letter said.
The threat follows a complaint by Dr Harvey to the Complaints Resolution Panel regarding promotion of Undoit, which was upheld, and the sponsor’s sudden cancellation of Undoit’s ARTG listing following a TGA threat to delist.
The product was replaced by Undoit Plus for which the sponsor makes identical claims, among them that it can undo the calories in a hamburger or remove the fat in a slice of chocolate mud cake. It says it has evidence to back these claims.
The legal action is the second that Dr Harvey has faced after making public criticism of a listed weight loss product. Earlier this year, he was unsuccessfully sued by Peter O’Brien, a former director of Sensaslim Australia. The Australian Consumer and Competition Commission is currently taking legal action against Sensaslim.
The latest threat against Dr Harvey has led to a call for defamation law to be changed so as to end so-called SLAPP (strategic lawsuits against public participation) writs.
“The message that’s sent is that if you speak out you may be subjected to a defamation writ,” Dr Harvey’s lawyer, Elizabeth O’Shea of Maurice Blackburn, told ABC radio over the weekend.
“Now clearly there’s ways of defending that and there’s lots of defences available within the law of defamation, but just the threat of litigation can be very troubling. It is troubling when companies suggest that making a complaint to a regulator constitutes defamation, so there is a broader public policy issue with using defamation in this manner.
“This is not even recognised as an issue in Australian law and in my view we probably need to take steps to greater protect people who might find themselves in this predicament.”
Dr Harvey was left with a $42,000 legal bill as a result of the Sensaslim action.
See also: O’Shea L. Slapping on a suit to discourage debate. The Australian, Aug 17, 2012.