The Federal Trade Commission sent cease and desist letters to more than twenty marketers, ordering them to stop making false claims that their products and therapies treat or prevent COVID-19. In the letters, the FTC warned the companies that they could be hit with monetary penalties under the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act. This is the eleventh set of COVID-19 warning letters that the FTC has sent during the pandemic.
In announcing the action, Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, said, "Americans are still suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic, and scammers are still taking advantage of them by making false claims about cures and treatments. Our efforts to stamp out those claims will continue in 2022, and any marketers not heeding our cease-and-desist demands can expect to face consequences, including civil penalties."
The FTC noted that most of the companies receiving the cease and desist letters used social media platforms to promote their products. Where that was the case, the FTC cc'd the platforms on the letters, which it had not done in the hundreds of prior warning letters that the FTC had sent out during the pandemic.
In this round of warning letters, the FTC targeted marketers selling a wide range of products -- everything from multivitamins and herbal tea to IV treatments and nasal irrigation.
What's the significance of the FTC's latest round of COVID-19 warning letters? First, that the FTC is still aggressively working to protect consumers from COVID-19 scams -- and that it plans to use its (relatively) new authority under the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act to seek civil penalties from (at least some) marketers who have made false claims. Second, by cc'ing various social media platforms on the letters, the FTC is (at a minimum) asking for their help in helping to prevent false COVID-19 prevention and treatment claims from appearing in the first place.
"Americans are still suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic, and scammers are still taking advantage of them by making false claims about cures and treatments" -- Samuel Levine, Director, FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection