Last week, the Federal Trade Commission sent another two rounds of warning letters, telling marketers to stop making false and misleading claims related to the coronavirus.
Earlier in the week, the FTC sent twenty-one warning letters to companies that the FTC said were making unsubstantiated claims that their products and therapies can treat or prevent the coronavirus. This was the third round of warning letters that the FTC sent to marketers of products that purport to prevent or treat the coronavirus. These new letters, however, address what the FTC called a "wider range of products and supposed treatments, including some that may appear more medically sophisticated to consumers." In the warning letters, the FTC challenged claims related to acupuncture, intravenous therapies with high doses of vitamin C, ozone therapy, and stem cell treatments.
For example, the FTC challenged claims made by Greenbelt Outdoors, such as, "Buy Vitamin C Powder here to build up your Immune System against Coronavirus" and "Why N95 Masks DO NOT WORK And Only Hardening Your Immune System With Chaga And Vitamin C, D Does?"
In the letters, the FTC reminded the marketers that, under the FTC Act, 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."
Then, on Friday, the FTC sent ten warning letters to multi-level marketing companies, telling them to address the claims that they are making about their products' ability to treat or prevent coronavirus and about the earnings that people can make. In a statement, Andrew Smith, the Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, said, “MLMs and other companies that distribute their products through networks of distributors are responsible for the product and earnings claims those distributors are making. During this health and economic crisis, we are on the lookout for false income claims for work-at-home opportunities, in addition to spurious health claims that products can treat or prevent COVID-19.”
For example, the FTC challenged claims made by Pruvit Ventures business opportunity participants or representatives such as, "Got the coronavirus heebeegeebees? Boost your immunity with this amazing deal!!!!” and "This is a great stimulus package, because you get to teach somebody how to go earn $1,730 literally in their first 10 days in the business.”
In the warning letters, the FTC told the MLM companies that claims about the potential to achieve a wealthy lifestyle, career-level income, or significant income are false or misleading if business opportunity participants generally do not achieve such results. The FTC said, "Even truthful testimonials from participants who do earn significant income or more will likely be misleading unless the advertising also makes clear the amount earned or lost by most participants." The FTC also reminded the companies that they are responsible for the claims by their business opportunity participants and representatives.
"During this health and economic crisis, we are on the lookout for false income claims for work-at-home opportunities, in addition to spurious health claims that products can treat or prevent COVID-19" -- Andrew Smith, Director, FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection