Here’s what you need to know about fraudulent claims and phony COVID-19 products

December 1, 2020

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Written by Amanda Combs, recall consultant

From teas and essential oils to drugs, faulty masks, and other medical products, COVID-19 has brought a wave of deceptive marketing and fraud.

Early on in the pandemic, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sent warning letters to seven companies selling unapproved products such as essential oils, tinctures, and colloidal silver. The companies were claiming the products could prevent or treat COVID-19.

Fast forward several months later to September and the FDA and FTC had already found 1,100 fraudulent and unproven medical products related to COVID-19, according to Bloomberg Law. Throughout the pandemic, the FDA has sent 120 warning letters to sellers, 230 reports to online marketplaces, and more than 270 complaints to domain registrars.

In the first edition of our 2020 Recall Index, experts predicted regulators would crackdown on companies selling phony products and making false claims. We’ve certainly seen this happen throughout the pandemic, and recent events prove regulators are still moving full speed ahead as we enter the final months of the year.

Most recently, the FDA and FTC issued a warning to Watershed Wellness Center for selling products that contain silver, claiming they can prevent or treat the virus. The agencies sent a second warning letter early in November to NovaBay Pharmaceuticals, who claimed an eyelid spray and antimicrobial facial spray can also prevent it. The FDA requested both companies immediately stop selling unauthorized products.

In this current situation – from emergency authorizations of drugs and medical devices to companies jumping in to create COVID-19 products – all regulatory agencies, including the FDA, FTC, Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), and the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are on high alert. This means they are vigilantly watching and inspecting your every move. While your company may not be making false claims or selling fake products, it’s crucial to stay informed.

No matter the product or industry, be ready for regulators to come knocking at your door. To confirm your company is on its best behavior, re-assess your procedures, follow protocols, and ensure no steps are skipped. Why? Because regulators will be less forgiving and recalls and litigation have proven to be more challenging to navigate during these unprecedented times.

Tags: Brand protection, consumer product safety, coronavirus, COVID-19, FDA, product safety, recall