Commission continues efforts to protect consumers from deceptive advertising
The Federal Trade Commission and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have sent warning letters to seven companies allegedly selling unapproved products that may violate federal law by making deceptive or scientifically unsupported claims about their ability to treat coronavirus (COVID-19). The warning letters are the first issued by the agencies alleging unapproved and/or unsupported claims that products can treat or prevent coronavirus.
The agencies sent the letters to the following companies: 1) Vital Silver, 2) Quinessence Aromatherapy Ltd., 3) N-ergetics, 4) GuruNanda, LLC, 5) Vivify Holistic Clinic, 6) Herbal Amy LLC, and 7) The Jim Bakker Show.
The recipients are companies that advertise products—including teas, essential oils, and colloidal silver—as able to treat or prevent coronavirus. According to the FDA, however, there are no approved vaccines, drugs, or investigational products currently available to treat or prevent the virus.
“There already is a high level of anxiety over the potential spread of coronavirus,” said FTC Chairman Joe Simons. “What we don’t need in this situation are companies preying on consumers by promoting products with fraudulent prevention and treatment claims. These warning letters are just the first step. We’re prepared to take enforcement actions against companies that continue to market this type of scam.”
“The FDA considers the sale and promotion of fraudulent COVID-19 products to be a threat to the public health. We have an aggressive surveillance program that routinely monitors online sources for health fraud products, especially during a significant public health issue such as this one. The FDA’s laws are designed to protect the public health by ensuring, among other things, that drugs are safe and effective for their intended uses,” said FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, M.D.
“We understand consumers are concerned about the spread of COVID-19 and urge them to talk to their health care providers, as well as follow advice from other federal agencies about how to prevent the spread of this illness. We will continue to aggressively pursue those that place the public health at risk and hold bad actors accountable,” the FDA Commissioner concluded.
In the letters, the FTC states that one or more of the efficacy claims made by the marketers are unsubstantiated and therefore may violate the FTC Act. The letters advise the recipients to immediately cease making all claims that their products can treat or cure coronavirus.
The letters note that if the false claims do not cease, the Commission may seek a federal court injunction and an order requiring money to be refunded to consumers. Finally, they instruct the recipients to notify the FTC within 48 hours of the specific actions they have taken to address the agency’s concerns.
In addition to following up with companies that fail to make adequate corrections, the FTC and FDA will continue to monitor social media, online marketplaces, and incoming complaints to help ensure that the companies do not continue to market fraudulent products under a different name or on another website.
Information for Consumers
The FTC recently issued a new consumer blog post with information about how to identify and avoid coronavirus-related scams. Coronavirus: Scammers follow the headlines notes that scammers are setting up websites to sell bogus products, and using fake emails, texts, and social media posts as a ruse to take consumers’ money and get their personal information. It then warns consumers of the “red flags” to be aware of when shopping for products related to the virus.
The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, stop deceptive and unfair business practices and scams, and educate consumers. Report fraud, scams, or bad business practices at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Get consumer advice at consumer.ftc.gov. Also, follow the FTC on social media, subscribe to press releases, and read the FTC’s blogs.
CONTACT FOR CONSUMERS:
FTC’s Consumer Response Center
FTC MEDIA CONTACT:
Mitchell J. Katz
Office of Public Affairs
FTC STAFF CONTACT:
Bureau of Consumer Protection