The FTC has sued a seller of personal protective equipment (PPE), bringing its first PPE-related case under the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act (CCPA). The lawsuit demonstrates the FTC’s continued focus on COVID-19-related advertising practices. Although this is not the first time the FTC has brought an action for a failure to deliver PPE on time, it is the first PPE case to be brought under the CCPA, which carries civil penalties of up to $43,792 per violation.
The seller in FTC v. Romero allegedly failed to ship PPE to customers on time (or in some cases, at all), failed to notify customers of shipping delays, failed to offer refunds, and delivered products that were inferior to what was advertised. On June 29, the FTC filed a complaint in the District Court for the Middle District of Florida, bringing claims under both the CCPA and the Mail Order Rule.
We have previously blogged on the CCPA, which prohibits deceptive marketing related to the treatment, cure, prevention, mitigation, or diagnosis of COVID-19. We also have blogged on timely shipping in the age of COVID-19 and how to comply with the FTC’s Mail Order Rule. In short, the Mail Order Rule requires businesses that sell goods online, by phone, or by mail to have a reasonable basis for their advertised shipping times, or, if they do not advertise shipping times, to have a reasonable basis to believe they can ship the goods within 30 days. If a business cannot ship the goods by the advertised shipping date or within 30 days (where it did not advertise a shipping date), the business must offer the customer the option to consent to the delay or receive a full refund. Violations of the Mail Order Rule also carry civil penalties of up to $43,792 for each violation.
Sellers of COVID-19-related products should evaluate their advertising and shipping practices to ensure the two match: if your advertising includes claims—express or implied—about shipping or delivery times, you must ensure the claims are not misleading, and you also must comply with the nuanced requirements of the Mail Order Rule.