‘Petty and insane’: Customers react to legal threats
A Sunshine Coast clothing and activewear company allegedly tracked down details from online purchases and issued legal threats to customers, including one with terminal cancer, over bizarre claims the women breached trademark laws by operating Facebook buy and sell groups.
Many of the women who received cease and desist notices from lawyers acting on behalf of Coolum Beach-based company Exotic Athletica Pty Ltd (Exotica) claim they have been targeted after leaving negative feedback on the company's Exotica Tribe online fan group (the Tribe) and on a separate social media group for women seeking support to stop buying the product.
Since The Sunday Mail began its investigation into the Queensland brand that touts itself as helping customers find their "inner wild", scores of women have come forward with stories of alleged bans from the Tribe, legal threats and bizarre competition terms.
Many customers say they have spent thousands on the clothing and are concerned about privacy issues after the company contacted them using what they believe is their purchase details.
Some women were too afraid to be identified for this story, saying they feared they would "lose their homes" due possible legal action.
The clothing line has been operating since 2017 from the Sunshine Coast.
It's "boss lady" Leilani Chandler, 40, describes herself as "dedicated", "passionate" and "persistent".
"I am wild, I am real and I am proud. I am a work in progress," the company director writes on the Exotica website.
Tasmanian administrator of a Facebook group called "FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) Balance & Support Group" (FOMO) Katie Quarrell, 26, said she started the community to help women take control of their spending on Exotica and discuss the products.
Ms Quarrell said she was in May issued with a six-month "prohibition notice" from using the Exotica website and contacted directly by a senior Exotica staffer.
"They started ringing my mobile … I asked her how she got my number and she said she had used my order information and was really concerned about the comments in the FOMO group," she said.
Ms Quarrell is one of a number of women to receive legal threats from Digital Age Lawyers, acting on behalf of Exotica.
The letters alleged women running buy and sell and review pages on Facebook were unlawfully using the company's trademark.
In a letter cited by The Sunday Mail, the lawyers ask for all references to Exotic Athletica to be removed from the pages.
"If you do not comply with these cease and desist demands … our client will pursue legal remedies, including but not limited to seeking monetary damages, injunctive relief and order that you pay legal costs without any further notice to you. In the event you fail to meet this demand, your liability and exposure under such legal action could be considerable," the letter emailed to Ms Quarrell on July 31 said.
Ms Quarrell also received a second letter claiming defamatory comments had been made in the closed FOMO group and that if this continued, "civil and/or criminal complaints" would be made about the administrators and members.
"What about Bonds or Kmart hacks groups? People are reviewing products and saying things in those groups and you don't see those companies getting order details from their customers and calling them because of something they saw on the internet that they don't like," she said.
"It's literally the most petty, insane thing I've never had a brand do and I can't fathom why they are wasting their time and energy on sending these letters."
Ms Quarrell said other buy and sell groups had shut down after receiving legal letters but she wasn't going to let the brand force her to close FOMO.
"I'm a strong-minded person. I want to keep the page up to keep supporting the women who get shut down on other pages," she said.
Sian Sampey, from Western Australia, also received a legal letter, claiming she operated a trademark infringing page.
Ms Sampey has terminal cancer and said she buys Exotica clothing as it is comfortable for her treatment and scarring.
She claims she was blocked from the Tribe after posting her "cancer story".
Ms Sampey's legal letter claimed she is an administrator of a product reviews site, which she denies.
"Sending letters like this is not on. Where is the evidence I have ever been an admin of one of these pages?" Ms Sampey said.
In a reply, she asked Exotica to provide a "written apology" and "assurance that in future they will refrain from utilising" her personal details.
Bathurst woman Teagan Pepper told The Sunday Mail she was asked to send images of herself wearing clothing she won in a shopping spree competition before an exchange would be allowed, despite telling the company the items did not fit correctly.
"I emailed and asked if I could get a store credit or swap them and they asked me to send photos of myself wearing the items," Ms Pepper said.
"I didn't want to send the pictures, especially because some of the items just were too tight so I just thought I'd rather give it all away."
Through a statement provided by their solicitor Katherine Hawes, Exotic Athletica said they denied "all allegations levelled at the brand and our founders".
"Exotic Athletica is committed to supporting positive powerful images of women through our brand," the statement said.
"As part of that commitment we strive to have safe (sic) environment for women to express themselves through our social media group.
"We are also committed to protecting our brand name from being hijacked for other purposes by various persons, and are taking steps to protect our trademark and reputation."
Originally published as 'Petty, insane': Customers react to legal threats