As the effects of coronavirus continue to ripple across the globe, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have warned seven companies for purportedly “making deceptive or scientifically unsupported claims about their ability to treat coronavirus (COVID-19).” The FTC press release is located here. The FTC and FDA alleged that the companies were advertising products such as “teas, essential oils, and colloidal silver” as being able to treat or prevent coronavirus. The letters warned the companies against making unsubstantiated claims, told the recipients to immediately cease making all such claims, and stated that the FTC was prepared to seek a federal court injunction and order requiring the consumer’s money to be refunded.
The FTC indicated that it was paying close attention to companies that advertised products as cures or treatment for the coronavirus given the “high level of anxiety over the potential spread,” and that the FTC was “prepared to take enforcement actions against companies that continue to market this type of scam.” In the press release, the FTC warned that it and the FDA would “continue to monitor social media, online marketplaces, and incoming complaints” to protect consumers from companies that fraudulently market products.
The FTC and FDA’s actions in sending the letters provide a strong cautionary message to companies marketing products relating to the coronavirus — if they make unsubstantiated claims, they can face government scrutiny and litigation. To avoid this, companies should not make claims they cannot scientifically substantiate, especially claims relating to the coronavirus.