The Federal Trade Commission just released a report, "Protecting Consumers During the COVID-19 Pandemic:  A Year in Review," which describes the FTC's efforts to protect consumers from pandemic-related fraud over the past year.  The report, "addresses challenges consumers face during the pandemic and details the Commission’s strategy to combat COVID-related fraud and other consumer issues using sophisticated targeting, aggressive law enforcement, and ongoing partnership and outreach."

Here are some of the highlights of the FTC's report:

  • The FTC brought thirteen enforcement actions.  These cases involved allegations that included, among other things, that the companies failed to deliver personal protective equipment, made deceptive health claims, and made deceptive earnings claims.  Recently, the FTC brought its its first enforcement action under the new COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act.
  • The FTC sent hundreds of warning letters, which told companies to stop making deceptive claims related to, for example, COVID-19 treatments, potential earnings, and financial relief for small business and students.  
  • The FTC said that it prioritized privacy-related enforcement actions that addressed the types of conduct that have been exacerbated in the transformation to digital work and schooling.
  • The FTC collected and tracked more than 436,000 reports associated with COVID-19 between January 2020 and April 7, 2021, in which consumers reported $399 million in fraud losses.
  • The FTC issued more than one hundred consumer and business alerts on COVID-19 related topics.

The FTC emphasized that it is continuing its pandemic-related consumer protection efforts.  The report stated, "The Commission will continue its vigilance to protect the public from harms that stem directly and indirectly from the COVID-19 pandemic, the economic fallout and the technological shift in how we live, learn and work."