Alleged scam neurology conference coming to Sydney

By Tessa Hoffman

10 May 2018

The company behind an upcoming neurology conference in Sydney is in the midst of a legal battle with the US trade watchdog, standing accused of ripping off consumers through deceptive advertising practices.

The “4th International Conference on Neurological Disorders and Stroke” – to be held in Sydney over two days in July – is billed to feature “eminent scientists and business professionals from all over the world”.

According to the conference website, registration costs $699 (USD) and delegates can “earn CME credits and Certification”,  but no Australians are listed on the organising committee and a “tentative program” does not list the names of any presenters or presentations.

The event is one of more than 40 conferences to be staged in Australia by Conference Series, a subsidiary of OMICS Group, the self-described publisher of 700 open access journals and accused predatory journal publisher.

Last year the companies – and their director Srinubabu Gedela – were banned by the US District Court District of Nevada from making misrepresentations in promotional material when the court approved a preliminary injunction sought by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) which alleges they have ripped off consumers to the tune of over $26 million through “unfair and deceptive practices”.

The court made a preliminary finding that the companies engaged in misrepresentations regarding their conferences and journal publishing by advertising the attendance of prominent academics at conferences when these individuals never agreed to take part, then failing to remove their names until threatened with legal action.

The companies were also found to have advertising academics as “editors” on websites without their permission and failing to remove their names when requested.

Despite this, in March the limbic revealed that a website for an upcoming Australian conference, the “11th World Congress on Rheumatology, Orthopedics and Sports Medicine”  had falsely claimed the endorsement or involvement of the New Zealand Orthopedic Association and European Federation of National Associations of Orthopaedics and Traumatology (EFORT) without their consent.

OMICS denied it had engaged in false advertising, with an unnamed ‘program co-ordinator’ telling the limbic it had listed the two organisations as “media partners” after the event was  listed in their event calendars.

Last year, the limbic also spoke to Australian pathologist Dr Michael Bilous, conjoint professor at the University of Western Sydney, who said he had been advertised to present at a Conference Series event without his consent.

Meanwhile, another event, the ‘11th Obesity and Endocrinology Summit’ staged last year triggered complaints to the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission amid allegations the event was fake.

One woman who paid over $1000 for a ticket to the two-day program at Melbourne’s Novotel described shambolic scenes with no exhibitors, no-show keynote speakers, only 30 delegates and no system for claiming CPD points.

At the time, a spokesperson for OMICS denied allegations the Obesity Summit was a fake conference.

“The scientific program which we have been updated in the website is not a fake program and due to some visa issues and time conflicts 4 of our speakers are unable to attend the event,” the spokesperson said in an email.

The spokesperson – who identified themselves only as “Program Manager” claimed it was the victim of false allegations peddle by competitors.

“Our growth has tremendously worried the competitors in the market and thus they have resorted to such unethical practices.

“We sincerely request you to understand the reality than fake news.”

While the civil case is expected to go to trial this year, FTC senior staff attorney Gregory Ashe told the limbic the commission is in the process of preparing a motion to the court “where we will argue that the evidence is so overwhelming that there is no need for a trial and the court can enter final judgment based on the current evidentiary record”.

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