The Federal Trade Commission has ordered more than 20 marketers nationwide to immediately stop making baseless claims that their products and supposed therapies can treat or prevent COVID-19. In cease-and-desist demands sent to these marketers, the agency noted that violators could be hit with monetary penalties under the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act passed by Congress last year.
The cease-and-desist demands are the latest action in the FTC’s continued fight against fraudsters attempting to take advantage of ongoing coronavirus concerns, including those related to the Omicron variant.
“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,” said Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “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”
This is the 11th set of warning letters issued by the FTC. The Commission has previously sent similar health-related letters to 405 companies and individuals. Most of the latest letters were sent to companies using social media platforms to sell their products, and in those instances the agency also notified the platform of its demand.
Several of the letters call out products and “treatments” the FTC has warned companies about previously, including peptide therapy, herbal remedies, ivermectin, and supplements. Others concern less-common products and therapies deceptively promoted to prevent or treat COVID-19. For example, letters went to companies claiming that “imprinted filtered water,” nasal irrigation, and even seaweed extract can fight coronavirus. However, currently there is no scientific evidence that any of these products can prevent or treat COVID-19 generally or any specific variant.
In the health-related letters, the FTC states that one or more of the efficacy claims made by the marketers are unsubstantiated because they are not supported by scientific evidence, and therefore violate the FTC Act. The demands order the recipients to immediately stop making all claims that their products can prevent or treat COVID-19, and to notify the Commission within 48 hours about the specific actions they have taken to address the agency’s concerns.
The letters warn the recipients of the FTC’s authority to seek civil penalties under the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act. Violators who make deceptive claims related to the treatment, cure, or prevention of COVID-19 are subject to penalties of up to $43,792 per violation.
The Commission also sent cease-and-desist demands to four multi-level marketing companies, advising them to them to remove and address claims that they or their participants are making about their products’ ability to treat or prevent coronavirus disease or about the earnings people who have recently lost income can make.
This is the third set of letters to MLMs the FTC has announced as part of its ongoing efforts to protect consumers from COVID-19 scams. The letters refer the companies to the agency’s guidance for MLMs, remind them that they are responsible for the claims made by their participants and representatives, advise the recipients that they and their participants must immediately cease making all claims that are false or misleading, and inform them that they must notify the Commission within 48 hours about the specific actions they have taken to address the agency’s concerns.