Blogger who 'faked cancer' faces action

SYDNEY •Belle Gibson, the wellness blogger who reportedly faked brain cancer to her hundreds of thousands of followers, is facing legal action in Australia over "deceptive conduct" after an investigation by a consumer watchdog.

Gibson, who lives in Melbourne, launched a recipe and lifestyle app, The Whole Pantry, on the back of her claim that she had been able to cure her terminal illness through diet and lifestyle changes. She also published a book of recipes by Penguin.

In March last year, doubts were cast on her cancer diagnosis in 1999 at age 20, after it emerged that she had been born in October 1991.

Questions were also raised about thousands of dollars in charity donations promised by Gibson off the back of funds raised through the book and app. The Whole Pantry admitted in March that it had "cash- flow problems" and that the donations had never been made.

Her career unravelled quickly and publicly, with a spokesman for Penguin admitting the book had been "published in good faith" and Gibson's claims had not been fact- checked.

Consumer Affairs Victoria confirmed yesterday that it was commencing legal proceedings against her for "misleading and deceptive conduct". It is also preparing to take legal action against her company, Inkerman Road Nominees, of which she is the sole director.

As Inkerman is in liquidation, owing almost A$140,000 (S$140,312), including an A$83,500 tax bill, Consumer Affairs Victoria's director Simon Cohen has applied to the federal court for leave to commence proceedings against the firm.

If leave is granted, he will start proceedings against both Gibson and her company. Penalties total up to A$1.1 million for companies and A$220,000 for individuals.

In a separate action, Penguin Publishing will have to pay the Victorian consumer law fund A$30,000 for failing to fact-check Gibson's book.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 07, 2016, with the headline 'Blogger who 'faked cancer' faces action'. Print Edition | Subscribe