Consumer Affairs Victoria has taken legal steps to compel the disgraced wellness blogger Belle Gibson to answer questions about her business dealings.
On Thursday, the watchdog appeared in the Melbourne magistrates court hoping it would order Gibson to assist with its investigation into her affairs. The case was adjourned to 10 July.
Gibson’s wellness empire crumbled after Fairfax Media revealed in March that she never delivered thousands of dollars’ worth of promised charity donations on the back of funds raised by her book and app, both named The Whole Pantry.
Gibson sold her products on the basis of her claims that she had treated her terminal brain cancer and other ailments by shunning conventional medical treatment, including radiation and chemotherapy, and instead turning to a healthy diet and alternative therapies. Her claims attracted thousands of online followers.
It was then revealed by The Australian that Gibson had never had cancer, infuriating her thousands of fans, many of whom did have cancer, and prompting her publisher to pulp her recipe book. Her wellness app has been removed from the Apple store.
Among her false claims were that she had had cancers of the blood, spleen and uterus.
Consumer Affairs Victoria subsequently announced an investigation into Gibson’s business dealings, stating it was unlawful for a business to make statements that were “misleading or deceptive” or “would be likely to mislead or deceive”.
“Misleading or deceptive conduct may lead to civil remedies including injunctions, declarations, damages, compensatory orders, orders for non-party consumers and non-punitive orders,” a spokeswoman said at the time.
On Sunday, Gibson appeared on the Nine Network’s 60 Minutes, in an interview she was reportedly paid $45,000 for. The program has refused to confirm whether payment was made.
During the interview, Gibson gave misleading or incorrect answers to questions on basic details about her life, including her age. She said was 26, despite birth records showing she is 23.
She avoided taking responsibility for causing cancer sufferers to shun conventional medical treatment. “I didn’t trade in on my story or in other people’s lives,” she told interviewer Tara Brown. “I’m not trying to get away with anything.”
On Thursday, Gibson lashed out at the media on Facebook.
“The media have been following and pursuing and intimidating myself (and my family) whilst either at home, somewhere private or in public,” she wrote.
Gibson and The Whole Pantry have not responded to numerous requests from Guardian Australia for comment.