Disgraced so-called wellness advocate Belle Gibson, who claimed to have cured her own cancer through alternative medicine before admitting she did not have the disease, is facing legal action.
Consumer Affairs Victoria said it was preparing to take Ms Gibson to court following an in-depth investigation into alleged contraventions of Australian consumer law.
Ms Gibson claimed she was diagnosed with malignant brain cancer and told she only had a short time to live.
She built a social media empire around the claim that she cured her illness with nutrition and holistic medicine, launching a smartphone app and a cookbook, — The Whole Pantry — through Penguin publishing.
Ms Gibson admitted in an interview with the Australian Women’s Weekly last year that her diagnosis was not real.
Victoria’s Consumer Affairs Minister Jane Garrett said the watchdog would take civil action in the Federal Court against Ms Gibson and her now-defunct company.
“All of those claims made by her round when she suffered the illness, her therapies in respect of that illness and what she did with her own alternative remedies are false and misleading and deceptive,” she said.
“We will be seeking financial penalties … also in terms of injunctions to ensure that that conduct is not undertaken again.”
Penguin agrees to $30k donation for publishing book
Ms Garrett said publisher Penguin Australia agreed to pay a $30,000 donation to the Victorian Consumer Law Fund after publishing Ms Gibson’s book.
The publisher acknowledged that Ms Gibson did not suffer from cancer, had not tried any conventional medical treatments and neither Ms Gibson nor her company donated any large part of profits to charities.
Penguin has now made an undertaking not to publish any claims or statements about a person’s medical condition without them being substantiated in writing by a medical practitioner.
It said it will not publish any statement regarding alternative, natural or holistic remedies without a prominent notice that they are not evidence-based, or proven to provide any medical benefit.
Penguin stopped printing The Whole Pantry wholefoods recipe book last year after Gibson’s admission.
Consumer Affairs began investigating Ms Gibson in March last year.