The Federal Trade Commission announced that it just sent 45 more warning letters to marketers telling them to stop making unsubstantiated claims that their products and therapies can treat or prevent COVID-19. With this fourth set of warning letters, the FTC has now sent about 100 coronavirus-related warning letters.
The FTC's letters target a wide variety of products and treatments, including dietary supplements, drugs, herbal treatments, vitamin C therapy, air purifiers, homeopathic treatments, and music therapy. In the letters, the FTC advises that it is illegal to “advertise that a product or service can prevent, treat, or cure human disease unless you possess 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.” The letters also tell the marketers to immediately stop making all claims that their products can treat or cure COVID-19, and to notify the FTC within 48 hours about the specific actions they have taken to address the agency’s concerns.
So, what's up with all of these warning letters?
According to Andrew Smith, the Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, the reason they are sending warning letters -- as opposed to starting lawsuits -- is that, "given the scope of the scams out there right now, we want to get the best and fastest results we can with the most efficient tool we have." And he says the warning letters are working. He said, "In nearly all cases so far, those who get the letters have stopped making the false claims or selling the scammy thing – whether cures from a product or earnings from a work-at-home scheme."
"During a crisis like this, we’ve prioritized stopping as many bad actors as we can, as quickly as we can" -- Andrew Smith, Director, FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection