Wellness scammer Belle Gibson ordered to pay $410K

By @chelean on
Screenshot of Belle Gibson's interview with "60 Minutes"
Screenshot of Belle Gibson's interview with "60 Minutes" 60 Minutes Australia

Fake health blogger Belle Gibson will have to pay $410,000 for her misleading claims. On Thursday, the Federal Court in Melbourne ordered the 25-year-old alternative health advocate to pay after she was found guilty of misleading and deceptive conduct earlier this year.

Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) launched an investigation in 2015 over her false claims of donating portion of her profits to charity. It brought a civil case against her and her company, Inkerman Road Nominees Pty Ltd, in May 2016 for breaking Australian consumer law. Penguin Australia, which published Gibson’s book, “The Whole Pantry,” paid a fine of $30,000 for releasing the book without fact-checking it.

In March of this year, Federal Court Judge Debbie Mortimer decided that "most but not all of CAV’s allegations against Gibson" were proven true. The judge found that Gibson’s claims had been misleading and deceptive but there was not enough evidence showing that she was not acting out of delusion.

Gibson donated $10,000 of her $420,000 earnings from her book and her “The Whole Pantry” app. The families and organisations never received any fundraising or donations that she promised them.

“She played on the empathy and generosity of the Australian community,” Mortimer said of Gibson at that time. The judge said the scammer misled her followers when she falsely claimed she was suffering from terminal brain cancer. Gibson admitted to Australian Women’s Weekly in April 2015 that she fabricated all her cancer claims.

On Thursday, Gibson was ordered to pay fine for five separate contraventions of the Australian Consumer Law Act. According to the ABC, $410,000 fine comes from her failed promised donation and which includes $90,000 from the sale of The Whole Pantry app, as she advertised; $50,000 from the launch of the app; $30,000 from a Mother’s Day event in 2014; $90,000 from company profits; and $150,000 from 100 percent of the app’s sale for one week, as promised to the family of brain tumour victim Joshua Schwarz.

Mortimer said Gibson’s false donation promise to the Schwarz family was the “most serious” of her infractions. She refused CAV’s request to order Gibson to pay for a full-page apology ads in newspapers because Gibson mostly acted on social media. The judge also wanted Gibson to donate the fine to those whom she had false promised donations to.