The Federal Trade Commission announced that it sent ten additional warning letters to companies, both in the United States and abroad, telling them to stop making unsubstantiated claims that their products can treat or prevent the coronavirus disease. In the warning letters, the FTC gave the companies 48 hours to inform the agency about the steps they are taking to address the FTC's concerns.
The FTC's warning letters challenge claims made, on company websites and social media platforms, for a wide variety of products, including sound therapy, facial brushes, air purifiers, intravenous treatments, dietary supplements, vitamins, and drugs. Some of the improper claims that the FTC identified were:
- "We have produced a set of programs with frequencies that target Coronavirus/SARS viral infections";
- "Take this lightweight brush with you, keep your hands and face clean everywhere you go – protect yourself from the coronavirus";
- "The corona virus can in various ways be air-borne . . . . IonFlow air purifiers are scientifically proven to efficiently prevent spread of air-borne viruses"; and
- "The coronavirus can be dramatically slowed or stopped completely with the immediate widespread use of high doses of Vitamin C."
In the warning letters, the FTC emphasized that, in order to advertise that a product can prevent, treat, or cure human disease, the marketer must have "competent and reliable scientific evidence, including, when appropriate, well-controlled human clinical studies, substantiating that the claims are true at the time they are made."
Here are three important take-aways from this latest round of warning letters. First, the FTC -- like many other law enforcers around the country -- has made it a top priority to help protect consumers from false coronavirus-related claims. If you're talking about how your product can help consumers deal with the coronavirus, now is definitely the time to be careful. Second, with all of the resources that the FTC is putting into enforcement, even small dietary supplement and other health-related companies may hear from the FTC if they cross the line. Don't assume that what you're doing will be below the radar. And third, regardless of how well-established your product is at killing terms, purifying the air, or doing other things that help keep consumers healthy, don't make claims that the product can actually prevent or cure the coronavirus disease unless you've got proper scientific proof that it will.
"It’s shameful to take advantage of people by claiming that a product prevents, treats, or cures COVID-19. We’re seeing these false claims for all sorts of products, but anyone who makes them simply has no proof and is likely just after your money.” -- Andrew Smith, Director, FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection