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This Tiny Period Cramp Device Is Scamming Women Out of Money

In December 2018, around the same time she was diagnosed with endometriosis, Lindsey Lavender noticed a new set of seemingly targeted ads on her Facebook and Instagram feeds. They were for a period cramp management system called Livia: a little square-shaped device, no bigger than a colorful iPod mini, that claimed to use a minimal…

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This Tiny Period Cramp Device Is Scamming Women Out of Money

In December 2018, around the same time she was diagnosed with endometriosis, Lindsey Lavender noticed a new set of seemingly targeted ads on her Facebook and Instagram feeds. They were for a period cramp management system called Livia: a little square-shaped device, no bigger than a colorful iPod mini, that claimed to use a minimal electric current to stimulate the skin and muscles, and block the pain from cramps. Sick of taking a bunch of medication every month to get through her extremely painful periods, Lavender, 28, asked her gynecologist if the Livia might be a good option. Though her doctor had never heard of it, she told Lavender that if she thought it might help, she should give it a try.

And for a while, the Livia did help. It wasn’t the total “off switch for menstrual pain” that it billed itself as, but Lavender tells VICE that it more-or-less did what it was supposed to do, which was make her cramps less bad. But about a month later, Lavender and her gyno agreed that she needed to stop having her period altogether. Which would mean no more cramps, and no more use for the Livia. Lavender reached out to Livia to ask about returning her device within the advertised 120-day window; she was paying for nursing school, facing new expenses related to managing her endometriosis, and wanted to recoup the $150 she spent on her now-unnecessary device.

A customer service rep responded that Lavender was well within Livia’s promised “120-day, money-back guarantee” window and they’d accept her device. A few weeks later, she packed it up, paid the $8 shipping with tracking to send it to an address in Georgia, and waited for the money to hit her account. And then she continued to wait for seven months, as various customer service employees representing Livia dodged Lavender’s repeated requests for information on when she’d get her “guaranteed” money back.

Scores of complaints on basically every online forum available—Trustpilot, the Better Business Bureau website, and Livia’s Facebook page—document an almost identical experience. Despite Livia’s promises of a “risk-free” trial and “money-back guarantee,” dozens of women say they ordered the device, returned it after communicating with a customer service rep, and months later, are still waiting to get their money back.

In an email statement sent to VICE, Chen Nachun, Livia’s CEO, writes that the company is proactively looking into the issue, and adds that Livia “was founded with a desire to help women who often cannot find safe, drug-free relief from menstrual pain elsewhere; our company was founded to help women.” But women who are waiting upwards of six months to get their money back say they feel duped, not helped.

“Maybe they just really don’t have their stuff together—but if this is a predatory model, then they’re preying on young women who are in pain and looking for a solution,” Monica*, who’s been waiting for her own Livia refund since early March 2019, tells VICE. “That’s what makes me really angry.”

Livia became available in 2016, after crowdfunding more than $1.7 million through Indiegogo. The small device, which is just a little box and two wires with sticky pads that attach to the skin, advertised itself as a way to stop period cramps without taking any medication. It’s meant to do this using something the company refers to as “gate control theory,” which is an idea that a non-pain sensation can distract the body from feeling a nearby painful one. As Dr. Jen Gunter, an OB-GYN and author of The Vagina Bible, wrote back in May 2016 on her personal website, the Livia is, essentially, a cute TENS unit; a common medical device that manages pain by pulsing electricity through the muscles.

“This is not new technology and it isn’t new for period pain. I have been prescribing them for well over 10 years,” Gunter wrote. “As TENS technology for period pain has been around for a long time it seems rather disingenuous to call it ‘new.’ And then there is the $85 cost—you can get a decent one on Amazon for $30.”

The Livia now costs more than double its originally advertised $85. At full-price, it’s $200, though the women VICE spoke with all got their devices at a discounted price of $150 (Livia often runs promotions). Monica, 26, initially thought she’d order her Livia through Amazon, but was drawn to the promotion and 120-day return window on Livia’s website, since she was concerned about a skin sensitivity. In an email shared with VICE, a Livia customer service rep assured Monica that if she ordered “through the Livia website, [she’d] get a 120-day money back period.”

The words “TRY LIVIA RISK-FREE” and “100% Money Back Guarantee” are plastered across the Livia homepage, promises that eased the sticker shock of a $150 device. “It took me a couple months to get on board with purchasing something of that amount without really being able to touch it,” Morgan Stueckler, 20, tells VICE.

Stueckler has endometriosis and runs a support group for it online; she was ultimately convinced to buy the Livia after another woman in her group said it’d worked for her. “It doesn’t necessarily work on the worst days possible, but it helps with the mild to moderate cramping,” she says. She’s had her Livia since June 2018, and last month, the small plastic clip that’s meant to keep the device attached to a waistband broke. Stueckler tried to use Livia’s two-year warranty, and a rep told her she had to pay to ship it to an address in Savannah, Georgia.

“To clarify: That would mean that I have to pay to ship back a device that has broken before the warranty is up, not have the device for upwards of months because it takes so long for you to ship the new one here, and I must have the original packing ship from over a year ago?” Stueckler wrote in response. “That seems like a scam and also a terrible way to do business.”

The company replied this was its policy, “and we should follow it.” But during this exchange, Stueckler started reading reviews on Livia’s Facebook page. A few positive reviews that read like ad copy were sprinkled in among negative reviews that admonish Livia’s customer service, and mention waiting months for promised refunds.

“I’ve read that a lot of people have sent it back and then not gotten another device or a refund,” Stueckler says. “I’m an endometriosis patient, the device is really helpful for me; going a couple months without anything would be really difficult. I would be more worried about sending it back and then nothing.” She decided to keep the partially functional device rather than risk losing it, and her money.

Comments still trickle in on Livia’s ultra-successful Indiegogo page every few months, and almost every one from the past several years is a complaint related to customer service:

“Do not buy this. I bought one, it took over a year to arrive. Then only worked for 4 months before it no longer charged. Now I’m being told if I want a new one I have to ship the old one at my own expense to Israel,” reads one comment, posted about a year ago. “As an original Indiegogo funder I’m frustrated I didn’t pay more attention to the problems people were having with the company before we finally got the Livias. I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt and basically had my money stolen from me. This company is a sham for substandard Tens machines.”

Language from Livia's homepage

The best year for the company seems to have been 2018, when the device received a Gold Edison Award in the Women’s Wellbeing category, as well as a Femtech award from Women’s Health magazine. These awards are posted on the Livia website, just above a button that reads, “Try it risk-free.”

In an emailed statement, Nachum wrote that the company is “deeply apologetic for any inconvenience caused,” and that Livia is tracking each case closely and has been in contact with each customer who has requested a refund. After posting negative reviews about her experience on Facebook, Twitter, and Trustpilot, Monica was told to contact a customer service rep named Adi directly, and on Thursday morning, finally heard that she was being issued a refund.

Lavender had a similar experience. She’d given up on trying to get her money back, even though, as a nursing student, she could really use her $150 back. She posted a negative review on the Livia Facebook page in June of this year, and two months later, someone within the company got in touch after seeing her post and said she’d like to give her the refund she was long overdue. “I received it in the beginning of September,” Lavender says. “It took me seven months to get my refund of 150 bucks.”

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A new pitch deck from IAC’s Dotdash shows how it plans to grow its media business after the Match spinoff

BI Prime Michael Seto/Business Insider This story requires our BI Prime membership. To read the full article, simply click here to claim your deal and get access to all exclusive Business Insider PRIME content. Barry Diller’s IAC is spinning off its dating sites business Match, which will leave media properties as a bigger part of…

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A new pitch deck from IAC’s Dotdash shows how it plans to grow its media business after the Match spinoff
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  • Barry Diller’s IAC is spinning off its dating sites business Match, which will leave media properties as a bigger part of the remaining company.
  • Those include College Humor and Dotdash, a collection of 11 service-oriented sites like Verywell, The Balance, and Lifewire.
  • At a December 4 presentation to investors, Dotdash laid out its business case.
  • Dotdash has been on an acquisition spree lately.
  • Dotdash said it’s one of the fastest growing publishers online, with healthy profit margins, and is giving established brands a run for their money in certain categories, and diversifying beyond advertising.
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Barry Diller’s IAC is spinning off its dating sites business Match, which will leave media properties as a bigger part of the remaining company.

Those include College Humor and Dotdash, a collection of 11 service-oriented sites like Verywell, The Balance, and Lifewire.

At a December 4 presentation to investors, Dotdash CEO Neil Vogel laid out the business case for his company, which has been on an acquisition spree lately, buying niche sites including Brides and Liquor.com.

Dotdash said it’s one of the fastest growing publishers online, with healthy profit margins, and is giving established brands a run for their money in certain categories like health, finance, and home.

It’s laid the groundwork to expand into the lucrative beauty advertising category and take on Condé Nast and Hearst, with the acquisitions of Byrdie, Brides, and MyDomaine.

The bulk of its revenue comes from advertising, but commerce is a growing part of the mix, accounting for about one fourth of revenue.

Scroll down to see how Dotdash is positioning itself to advertisers and investors:

While other digital publishers consolidate, Dotdash says it’s growing rapidly, profitably.

Dotdash1


IAC


Dotdash’s sweet spot is news and information people need.

Dotdash


IAC


Its brands span categories that are advertiser-friendly: health, finance, beauty, and lifestyle.

Dotdash4


IAC


Dotdash focuses on service and information that people search for on Google.

Dotdash44


IAC


This graph shows how Dotdash says it’s challenging established brands in categories like health, finance, and food.

Dotdash


IAC


Dotdash’s content strategy relies on 125 editorial staffers and more than 1,500 freelancers who update articles as often as weekly.

Dotdash


IAC


Dotdash sites have a stripped-down look with minimal ads.

Dotdash


IAC


Dotdash’s sites have grown their audience dramatically since it relaunched or acquired them.

Dotdash


IAC


Dotdash says advertising is growing at an annual CAGR of 19%.

Dotdash


IAC


Dotdash is diversifying its revenue mix, with commerce becoming about one fourth of revenue.

Dotdash


IAC


Dotdash calls itself an attractive platform for advertisers with the ability to add new revenue streams.

Dotdash


IAC


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The federal agency that sued Elon Musk for fraud questioned Tesla’s accounting this year

Ringo H.W. Chiu/Associated PressFinancial regulators questioned several aspects of Tesla’s accounting this year. The Securities and Exchange Commission wrote to Tesla’s finance chief seeking more information about its finances and accounting policies, and queried the company’s legal team over its withholding of information for competitive reasons. The SEC closed its review in late October, and…

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The federal agency that sued Elon Musk for fraud questioned Tesla’s accounting this year

elon muskRingo H.W. Chiu/Associated Press

  • Financial regulators questioned several aspects of Tesla’s accounting this year.
  • The Securities and Exchange Commission wrote to Tesla’s finance chief seeking more information about its finances and accounting policies, and queried the company’s legal team over its withholding of information for competitive reasons.
  • The SEC closed its review in late October, and agreed Tesla could keep certain information redacted until 2020.
  • The agency sued Tesla CEO Elon Musk for fraud last year after he tweeted about taking Tesla private and said he had secured funding and support from investors.
  • The lawsuit resulted in a $40 million fine, Musk stepping down as chairman, and board changes.
  • View Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Financial regulators, after butting heads with Tesla CEO Elon Musk over his tweeting, questioned several aspects of his electric-car company’s accounting this year.

The Securities and Exchange Commission queried Tesla’s last annual report and its latest second-quarter report in a letter to Tesla’s finance chief, Zachary Kirkhorn, on September 17, according to filings it shared this week.

The agency requested further explanation for changes in Tesla’s accounts, sales by acquired companies to third parties, and its exclusion of some costs from its warranty reserve. The agency also asked for more details of Tesla’s accounting of leased automobiles this year, following the release of new guidelines on their treatment.

Kirkhorn responded that the changes to Tesla’s accounts — including a big jump in its production costs — were largely driven by scaled-up manufacturing of the Model 3. He added that some of the companies it acquired were still contracted to sell goods to third parties. He broadly defended Tesla’s accounting of warranty reserves and lease accounting as kosher.

The SEC, seemingly satisfied with his reply, closed its review on October 28.

The agency also wrote to Tesla’s legal team on September 17, seeking unredacted copies of some financial information to assess whether the company was within its rights to withhold it from SEC filings for competitive reasons. In a follow-up letter on September 25, it agreed certain information from Tesla’s filings in 2017 and 2018 could be redacted until September 2020.

The correspondence suggests Tesla remains firmly on the SEC’s radar.

The agency sued Musk for fraud in the fall of 2018 after he tweeted that he was thinking about taking Tesla private at $420 a share and had “funding secured,” then added “investor support is confirmed.”

The lawsuit resulted in a $40 million fine shared between Musk and his company, Musk stepping down as Tesla’s chairman, and the company bolstering its board with new, independent directors.

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Here are the 23 companies that have hired most of Chicago Booth’s class of 2019

BI Prime This story requires our BI Prime membership. To read the full article, simply click here to claim your deal and get access to all exclusive Business Insider PRIME content. The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business offers the third-best MBA education in the country, according to U.S. News. Booth’s latest graduating class is…

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Here are the 23 companies that have hired most of Chicago Booth’s class of 2019
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Even though fewer students are applying for US MBA programs, demand for graduates is as high as ever. Just look at where the majority of MBA students from the third best business school in the country, the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, ended up after graduation.

Booth released data this week on the 23 employers that hired over half of the class of 2019. These employers reflect the three industries that drew most grads: consulting, finance, and technology. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these are quite lucrative industries, with the highest reported median salaries. You can read a report on the salary breakdown for the graduating class by industry here

These are the companies that hired at least four graduates each from Booth’s latest class, listed in order of least to most graduates hired. 

23. Walmart Stores Inc.

FILE PHOTO: Walmart's logo is seen outside one of the stores in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., November 20, 2018. REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski/File Photo


Reuters


Number of Hires: 4

Percent of Hires: 0.8%

22. The Vanguard Group, Inc.

Vanguard building




Glassdoor



Number of Hires: 4

Percent of Hires: 0.8%

21. Accenture

Visitors look at devices at Accenture stand at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, February 26, 2013.    REUTERS/Albert Gea/File Photo


Reuters


Number of Hires: 4

Percent of Hires: 0.8%

20. Moelis & Company LLC

Moelis and Company


Google Earth


Number of Hires: 4

Percent of Hires: 0.8%

19. Ernst & Young LLP

Ernst & Young




Glassdoor



Number of Hires: 4

Percent of Hires: 0.8%

18. The Kraft Heinz Company

kraft heinz


Jason Kempin/Getty Images


Number of Hires: 4

Percent of Hires: 0.8%

17. William Blair

William Blair and Company


Google Earth


Number of Hires: 4

Percent of Hires: 0.8%

15. Evercore Partners Inc.

Evercore Partners


Google Earth


Number of Hires: 6

Percent of Hires: 1.2%

14. A.T. Kearney, Inc.

AT Kearney




ATKearney



Number of Hires: 6

Percent of Hires: 1.2%

13. Bank of America Merrill Lynch

merrill lynch office


Daniel Barry / Stringer / Getty Images


Number of Hires: 6

Percent of Hires: 1.2%

12. Morgan Stanley

Morgan Stanley


Spencer Platt/Getty Images


Number of Hires: 6

Percent of Hires: 1.2%

11. Microsoft Corporation

FILE PHOTO: The Microsoft sign is shown on top of the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles, California, U.S. October 19,2018.  REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo


Reuters


Number of Hires: 6

Percent of Hires: 1.2%

10. Citigroup, Inc.

The Citigroup Inc (Citi) logo is seen at the SIBOS banking and financial conference in Toronto, Ontario, Canada October 19, 2017. Picture taken October 19, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Helgren


Reuters


Number of Hires: 7

Percent of Hires: 1.4%

8. Credit Suisse

Credit Suisse


REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini/File Photo


Number of Hires: 8

Percent of Hires: 1.7%

7. PwC Strategy&

PwC


Reuters/Danish Siddiqui


Number of Hires: 9

Percent of Hires: 1.9%

6. JPMorgan Chase & Co.

JPMorgan Chase


Justin Sullivan/Getty Images


Number of Hires: 11

Percent of Hires: 2.3%

5. Google LLC

google office


Scott Brownrigg


Number of Hires: 14

Percent of Hires: 2.9%

2. The Boston Consulting Group

BCG Hudson Yards 6903


Sarah Jacobs


Number of Hires: 35

Percent of Hires: 7.2%

1. McKinsey & Company, Inc.

McKinsey & Company logo


Thompson Reuters


Number of Hires: 48

Percent of Hires: 9.9%

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