FTC Sends Ten Warning Letters Over Coronavirus Claims

Advertising Law

On April 14, 2020, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sent warning letters to ten companies—Bioenergy Wellness Miami, Face Vital, LightAir International, MedQuick Labs, New Performance Nutrition, PuraTHRIVE, Resurgence Medical Spa, Rocky Mountain IV Medics, Suki Distribution and Vita Activate—in the United States and overseas, in response to allegedly unsubstantiated claims that their products can treat or prevent the novel coronavirus.

These companies made allegedly unsubstantiated claims for a variety of products on websites and through social media. For example:

  • Bioenergy Wellness Miami claimed that devices it sells emit sound frequencies that “target Coronavirus/SARS viral infections, and can be used either as homeoprophylaxis or at the onset of flu-like symptoms.”
  • Face Vital marketed its “Face Vital Sonic Silicone Facial Brush” as a way to “fight off Coronavirus” and suggested consumers could “RAMP UP YOUR BEAUTY AND CLEANSING REGIMEN, FIGHT OFF CORONA” by using its product.
  • Resurgence Medical Spa claimed, “More and more research is showing that high doses of Vitamin C could both prevent and treat Covid-19. Whether you’re experiencing symptoms or trying to keep from getting sick, call us today to schedule an appointment for a High Dose Vitamin C plus Immunity Booster IV infusion.”
  • Rocky Mountain IV Medics advertised its IV treatments with claims like “Coronavirus Symptoms Treatment Tests are underway and IV Vitamin C treatments are starting to show promising results! If you’re looking for IV Vitamin C therapy, we have ASAP and prescheduled appointments available.”
  • Vita Activate claimed that its Natural Chaga Mushroom “may prevent invaders such as the corona virus. Just a few sprays a day can boost your immunity effectively . . . Very rich in source of magnesium, zinc, and selenium that have anti-corona virus properties. Get ready and be prepared to fight off bacteria and harmful airborne diseases with the powerful anti-viral, anti-bacterial Chaga Mushroom.”

Under the FTC Act, it is unlawful to advertise without adequate substantiation that a product can prevent, treat or cure human disease. Therefore, the companies must support these claims with competent and reliable scientific evidence and, when applicable, well-controlled human clinical studies. The warning letters identified that, for COVID-19, no such evidence is currently known to exist for the cited products. As such, these companies must stop making coronavirus prevention, treatment or cure claims for the cited products. Otherwise, the FTC stated that it may seek a federal court injunction and an order requiring money to be refunded to consumers.

Why it matters

These coronavirus warning letters follow previous missives sent to a CBD company and seven other marketers of supplements and other consumer products over allegedly misleading claims about their ability to fight COVID-19. Andrew Smith, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, stated that “[w]e’re seeing these false claims for all sorts of products, but anyone who makes them simply has no proof and is likely just after your money.” As the coronavirus pandemic continues, the FTC will likely continue to scrutinize unsupported claims, including though social media. Advertisers should ensure that claims about treating or preventing the coronavirus are adequately substantiated.

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