I blogged yesterday about a joint effort of the FTC and FCC to prevent robocalls marketing fraudulent home coronavirus testing kits and HVAC cleaning services, an effort assisted by US Telecom, the telemarketing industry’s own trade association. This joint action followed from one by the FTC and the FDA in March warning several companies about making false claims about their products' ability to fight coronavirus.
Today, EPA issued a press release about its own efforts to fight viral scammers. As detailed in the release, EPA’s Administrator met (telephonically) with representatives from the retailers’ trade association, the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), along with Walmart, Amazon and Ebay, to discuss “imposter disinfectant products,” that is, cleaning and other products claiming to be effective in protecting consumers from coronavirus but that do not have the required EPA registration to make such claims.
The EPA’s press release states that the agency has learned -- based on tips, complaints, and research – that there are products in the market that tout anti-viral, antibacterial, disinfecting and sanitizing properties even though they have not gone through EPA’s registration process. Under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), products that claim to kill or repel bacteria or viruses on surfaces are considered pesticides and must be registered by EPA prior to distribution or sale. As the release notes, non-registered products “may not effectively eliminate the virus or reduce the spread of the virus and could even be harmful to consumers’ health.” Thus, public health claims can only be made for products that have been tested according to certain protocols and that are registered with EPA. As part of that registration process, the agency must determine that the product will not pose an unreasonable risk when used according to its label directions.
RILA and the retailers contributed statements to the press release about their own efforts to block the sale of fraudulent products in their stores and on their platforms. But should those be insufficient, it’s worth noting that the EPA is also partnering with the Department of Justice and other federal agencies “to bring the full force of the law against those selling fraudulent or unregistered products.”