The Federal Trade Commission has warned 10 companies to stop making health claims about the treatment and prevention of coronavirus or to launch business opportunities amid the pandemic, the agency said on Friday.
the group of letters represents the first time that the F.T.C. has issued warnings about claims of potential earnings related to the economic fallout from the pandemic. The commission and the Food and Drug Administration have already sent warning letters regarding unapproved health products related to the coronavirus.
There are currently no scientifically proven products to treat or prevent the virus, according to the F.D.A.
In recent letters, the trade commission has targeted so-called multilevel marketers who distribute products or services through networks of salespeople who are not employees of the business and who receive no wages or salaries. He warned businesses that false or misleading tax returns were a violation of federal law.
“MLMs and other companies that distribute their products through distributor networks are responsible for product and revenue claims from these distributors,” said Andrew Smith, director of the commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, in a statement announcing the warning letters.
“During this health and economic crisis, we are looking for false tax returns for homework opportunities, in addition to false health claims that the products can treat or prevent Covid-19,” he said. declared.
The letters note videos and publications on the social networks of companies or their distributors in which the F.T.C. reported making claims not based on health benefits and potential income.
An example highlighted by the agency, a video of Pruvit Ventures, which sells ketone supplements, included the statement, “I can tell you that thousands of people are unemployed right now. They’re all looking for a way to make money. This is a great stimulus package because you teach someone how to make $ 1,730 in their first 10 days of business. “
In another warning letter, the commission cited an article published on social media by Zurvita, a health and wellness company: “Do you want to join me in drinking Zeal to fight the Corona virus?” Contact me… to learn how to become your own Corona virus superhero! “
Kevin Wilson, spokesperson for doTERRA International, said in an email on Saturday that the company had received the letter and “was working to address the concerns.” He added that the company, which sells essential oils and is based in Utah, “has been steadfast in its efforts to comply with relevant laws and regulations. “
In a statement released on Saturday, Lauren Hartung, spokesperson for Rodan & Fields, said the company “does not tolerate claims of non-compliant or misleading income, and we regularly take enforcement action against these claims.”
Zurvita did not immediately respond to a comment on Saturday. But on its Facebook page, the company said that “it is imperative that our independent consultants and customers avoid reporting that our products are intended to prevent, treat or cure Covid-19 or any other disease”, adding that all of the prevention or treatment claims related to coronaviruses are strictly prohibited by the FTC
Arbonne said it “upholds the highest standards of integrity and that we do not tolerate deceptive, unethical or illegal messages, allegations or practices – especially given the seriousness of the Covid-19 emergency ”.
The other companies did not immediately respond to comment on Saturday.
The letters indicated that the companies had 48 hours to respond, explaining what they were doing to correct the violations. The consequences for businesses of non-compliance were not immediately clear.