You might remember the story of Belle Gibson, an Australian “wellness” and diet blogger who was exposed for faking brain cancer in a publicity stunt. Just over one year on, it has now been revealed that she could face legal action over her deception.
Consumer Affairs Victoria is preparing to take legal action against Gibson after conducting an in-depth investigation into her alleged contraventions of the Australian Consumer Law.
Gibson claimed to have cured her malignant brain cancer with Ayurvedic medicine, craniosacral therapy, and a diet that strictly avoided refined sugar and gluten. She preached that her methods could also cure other people's cancers and an array of serious illnesses. The grand claims won her a personal app, a book deal, and numerous television appearances under the brand called “The Whole Pantry.” Gibson also promised consumers that she would donate hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of proceeds to charities.
However, in March 2015, cracks emerged in her story. She claimed she had been diagnosed with brain cancer in 1999 at the age of 20, yet it later emerged that she had been born in October 1991. It was also revealed that she had never paid the charities any of the money, citing "cash flow" problems.
In an interview with Australian Women's Weekly, she finally confirmed the rumors that she never had cancer, saying: “No. None of it’s true.”
During her fall from grace, Gibson’s app was removed by Apple and her publisher Penguin pulled her book from shop shelves. The whole ordeal cost Penguin Publishing $22,030 for failing to fact-check Gibson’s book.
“This is an important step in ensuring that consumers receive only verified information and are not deceived, particularly where serious matters of health and medical treatment are concerned,” Simon Cohen, director of Consumer Affairs Victoria, said in a statement.