The FTC continues to devote substantial time and attention to its enforcement battle against companies seeking to take unfair advantage of consumers amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This week, the FTC announced its latest round of warning letters to ten companies making unsubstantiated claims that their products can treat or prevent the disease.
As we have previously blogged, the FTC began taking action last month when it issued its first round of warning letters, jointly with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), to sellers of unapproved and/or misbranded products and announced its commitment to aggressively pursuing such scams. Earlier warning letters targeted entities selling homeopathic drugs, cannabinol (CBD) products, essential oils, colloidal silver and other supposedly scientifically proven COVID-19 treatments. The FTC also reached out to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service providers, warning them that assisting and facilitating entities involved in unlawful robocalling tied to COVID-19 is also illegal.
Despite the FDA’s declaration that there are currently no products or services scientifically proven to treat or prevent the COVID-19 virus, the latest round of letters, to companies both in the United States and abroad, targets a wide variety of products—from an immunity-boosting system supposedly using sound frequencies to penetrate cells, to a coronavirus-fighting “Sonic Silicone Facial Brush,” to intravenous “therapies” with high doses of Vitamin C. A list of the latest warning letter recipients can be found in the FTC’s announcement.
The FTC’s use of warning letters should not give companies involved in such conduct comfort that this is their only risk. The letters appear to be an effort by the agency to stop as much conduct as it can as quickly as it can. Companies that ignore the warning letters or whose conduct the agency views as harming a large number of consumers are likely to hear from the agency with a CID or lawsuit. Marketers selling products with a COVID-19 spin should be especially careful to make sure their claims are substantiated properly.