Disgraced health blogger Belle Gibson faces deceptive conduct charges following a Consumer Affairs investigation over her claims she was diagnosed with brain cancer.
The 23-year-old cancer charlatan will be made to face court following a 14-month investigation by the consumer watchdog.
No criminal charges for Belle Gibson - just civil suit. Consumer affairs asked why no criminal fraud charges - "this is the best option"— Kristy Mayr (@KristyMayr7) May 6, 2016
The success of Gibson's recipe book, The Whole Pantry, and her health and wellness Instagram blog, Healing Belle, which had almost 200,000 followers, was largely driven by her inspirational yet entirely fictitious cancer survival story.
The fraudulent health guru claimed she had survived terminal brain cancer and various other life-threatening cancers over the years by abandoning conventional treatments and opting for natural health and wellness remedies.
The Whole Pantry founder is under investigation with Consumer Affairs Victoria for lying about having brain cancer and using it to build her empire and failing to pass on money raised to help associated charities.
She faces $1.1M in penalties over unsubstantiated claims she cured terminal cancer with a healthy diet, but there are concerns about recovering the funds as as her company is in liquidation.
No charges have been laid against Ms Gibson but the regulator launched an investigation last year amid claims she failed to donate $300,000 from the sales of her wellness app, The Whole Pantry, to charity.
In March Gibson told reporters she would escape punishment and won't be subject to any action brought upon her by Victoria's consumer watchdog.
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It has been a year since the social media entrepreneur was ousted and her book was taken off the shelves but she told The Herald Sun that she does not think she will face charges.
"No, I don’t think I will," she said, adding she was not worried about the pending investigation.
Last April, Gibson broke her silence and admitted in the Australian Women's Weekly that she had never had cancer. The 23 year old explained she found it difficult to distinguish between reality and fantasy.
“No. None of it’s true,” she told the magazine. “I am still jumping between what I think I know and what is reality. I have lived it and I’m not really there yet.”
Cracks started to appear in her story when it was revealed that $300,000 raised by her app and promised to cancer charities was never donated.
The controversy gathered pace quickly, with a book deal with Penguin Publishing evaporating and Apple removing her product from its App Store. Those who had purchased her products demanded their money back.
But Gibson's defiance comes as it has been revealed the wellness app is still available for download and on Android devices through the Google Play Store.
It has not been updated but it is believed to have had more than 10,000 downloads.
The disgraced blogger also faces accusations of failing to deliver on pledges to several charities.
Some of her former followers have set up a Facebook page designed to expose her by sharing images of her drinking alcohol before she became a clean-living advocate and posting previous claims about her battle with cancer.
“The reason is simple – to educate and inform the many people who have already commented on this page feeling betrayed, deceived and let down by someone who they trusted,” they wrote.
“Many people followed this person, they believed in her and some even abandoned conventional medicine in favour of embracing her lifestyle in desperate hope they could cure their illnesses.”
Ms Gibson said the social media accounts were "further encouraging interactions between those who were angry and encouraging personal data, information or other security-sensitive content to be shared or made light o"’.
Consumer Affairs said the book's publisher, Penguin, said it did not ask Gibson to verify her cancer and recovery history and would make a $30,000 donation to the Victorian Consumer Law Fund.
Penguin confirmed it would also enhance its compliance, education and training program to ensure claims about medical conditions are substantiated and statements about natural therapies are accompanied with a prominent warning.
“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,” Consumer Affairs Director Simon Cohen said.
Here is her interview on Sunrise months before her fall from grace.
Minister for Consumer Affairs Jane Garrett will make an announcement shortly.
More to come.