Tuesday, June 2, 2020

FTC Sends More Letters Warning Marketers to Stop Making Unsupported COVID-19 Prevention Claims

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Richard B. Newmanhttp://www.hinchnewman.com
Richard B. Newman is an Internet Lawyer at Hinch Newman LLP focusing on advertising law, Internet marketing compliance, regulatory defense and digital media matters. His practice involves conducting legal compliance reviews of advertising campaigns across all media channels, regularly representing clients in high-profile investigative proceedings and enforcement actions brought by the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general throughout the country, advertising and marketing litigation, advising on email and telemarketing best practice protocol implementation, counseling on eCommerce guidelines and promotional marketing programs, and negotiating and drafting legal agreements.

The Federal Trade Commission announced it has sent 45 warning letters to marketers about  unsubstantiated claims that their products and therapies can treat or prevent COVID-19.  The foregoing is the fourth set of FTC warning letters to sellers of such products, and part of a continuing crackdown of COVI-19 related scams by local, state and federal regulatory agencies.

The FTC previously sent warning letters to sellers of vitamins, herbs, colloidal silver, teas, essential oils, and other products pitched as scientifically proven coronavirus treatments or preventatives, intravenous (IV) “therapies” with high doses of Vitamin C, ozone therapy, and purported stem cell treatments.

Several of the letters announced in the fourth round target other “treatments,” including Chinese herbal medications, music therapy, homeopathic treatments, and even shields claimed to boost the immune system by protecting the wearer from electromagnetic fields.  However, there is currently no scientific evidence that these, or any, products or services can treat or cure coronavirus.

FTC lawyer and Bureau of Consumer Protection Director Andrew Smith has stated that: companies making these types of claims can look forward to an FTC lawsuit.

The FTC sent the letters announced today to companies and individuals.   

In the 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 letters advise the recipients to immediately stop making all claims that their products can treat or cure COVID-19, and to notify the FTC within 48 hours about the specific actions they have taken to address the agency’s concerns.

The letters also note that if the false claims do not cease, the FTC may seek a federal court injunction and an order requiring money to be refunded to consumers.

Last week, the FTC announced its first case against a marketer of such products.

The FTC also recently sent letters to several VoIP service providers, warning them that it is illegal to aid or facilitate the transmission of pre-recorded telemarketing robocalls pitching supposed coronavirus-related products or services, as well as to MLM marketers business opportunities with unsupported earnings claims that their products or services can treat or cure coronavirus.

Contact an experienced FTC defense lawyer with questions about compliance with Federal Trade Commission claim substantiation requirements, or if you are the subject of a regulatory investigation or lawsuit.

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