Last week, the FTC announced that it brought an enforcement action against a group of marketers who promoted the “1 Virus Buster Invisible Mask."  This isn't part of some Halloween costume, though.  According to the FTC, the marketers falsely promoted the mask as a product that “creates a three-foot barrier of protection against 99.9 percent of all viruses and bacteria, including COVID-19.”  

This isn't the first time that these marketers heard from the FTC.  In July 2020 (and remember how scary life was life back then?), the FTC sent them a warning letter advising them to stop marketing their product as one that could help protect people against catching COVID-19. 

Three out of the four marketers being charged by the FTC agreed to settle the case.  In addition to agreeing to pay more than $100,000, the marketers agreed not to make false health claims in the future.  The consent order also requires them to post notices on their websites and social media accounts that lets consumers know that the mask doesn't protect them against COVID-19 and that they have settled an FTC lawsuit over their claims that it did.  

In announcing the settlement, Samuel Levine, the Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection said, "The defendants’ claims that their products can stand in for approved COVID-19 vaccines are bogus.  The FTC will use every tool it has at its disposal to stop false and unsubstantiated health claims that endanger consumers.”

It should come as no surprise to marketers that if you're advertising a product, no tricks are allowed. If you're making health claims, you'd better have competent and reliable scientific evidence to back it up. 

Another important take-away from this investigation is that it just doesn't pay to ghost the FTC.   If you get a warning letter from the FTC, don't ignore it.  You should consider yourself lucky that you only got a warning letter and then use the opportunity to address the FTC's concerns.   

Finally, all marketers should pay attention to the fact that some of the recent FTC orders are now requiring marketers to engage in some form of consumer notification or corrective advertising.  The message here is that, if the FTC comes knocking on your doorstep, they're going to be looking for a lot more than just a friendly greeting and a promise not to do it again.