A US federal court has ordered Hyderabad-based OMICS International – which claims to publish over 700 peer-reviewed journals – to pay a fine of over $50 million to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for engaging “in unfair and deceptive practices”. The case was heard in Nevada because OMICS is legally incorporated there.
According to the March 29 court order, the US-based body arrived at the amount by calculating OMICS Group’s gross revenue during the period August 25, 2011-July 31, 2017 and deducting the $609,289.13 paid as refunds made by the company. The fine is apart from the permanent injunctions against most of the organisation’s activities that are highly objectionable, R. Prasad wrote in The Hindu.
The ruling it first of its kind against one of the largest publishers of so-called predatory journals, Jeffrey Brainard noted in Science magazine. ‘Predatory’ journals are the ones that will publish anything in exchange for an often substantial fee.
Apart from publishing journals, OMICS has claimed on its website that it organises over 3,000 conferences globally on topics ranging from medicine, pharma and engineering to science, technology and business.
The Wire previously reported that the OMICS Group – a notorious name in scientific publishing – was sued by the FTC in September 2016 for “bilking researchers out of potentially millions of dollars”. It had alleged that the group had made misleading claims about manuscripts being peer-reviewed and had without consent used named of prominent researchers as editors of journals.
FTC had further alleged the OMICS had not been transparent about the publication fees charged per manuscript until after it had accepted an article for publication. The group was also alleged to often deny researchers from withdrawing articles after submission.
Calling the summary judgment without calling for a trial “unjustifiable,” Kishore Vattikoti, the lawyer for OMICS said in an email to The Hindu that the company plans to appeal.
He said: “The founders of the defendant companies were not permanent residents in the United States nor there had been any physical presence or operations commenced from United States,” adding that “My client had already [sought] $3.1 billion damages from FTC during [its] motion for Summary Judgement. FTC might have expected that if the trail was scheduled and happened in my client’s presence, the defendant would have [sought] for $3.1 billion damages because of FTC’s alleged unfair activity. This might be the reason [the] final order has been announced without a trail.”