FTC warnings about COVID-19 claims now also include social media platforms and e-commerce sites

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The US Federal Trade Commission sent the warning letters to companies marketing dietary supplements, herbal teas and other beverages and a number of medical devices and therapies. The new warnings join more than 400 FTCs issued since the start of the pandemic.

“Americans are still suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic, and scammers are still taking advantage of it by misrepresenting cures and treatments,”said Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s Consumer Protection Bureau. “Our efforts to eradicate these claims will continue into 2022, and any merchant who disregards our cease and desist requests can expect to face consequences, including civil penalties.”

The amount per violation of these civil penalties was recently increased as part of an inflation adjustment. The penalty amount per violation is now $43,792.

Social media platforms put on notice

The warnings sent yesterday differed significantly from previous COVID-19 warnings the Commission has sent, as the FTC now warns social media platforms and e-commerce sites on which the offending posts were shared. Facebook copied 18 of the warning letters, and 11 others used Instagram, with 5 each sending allegedly inadmissible allegations via Twitter or YouTube. Sites Etsy, LinkedIn, Shopify and TikTok were also mentioned in the crackdown.

Lawyer Ivan Wasserman, a partner at Amin Talati Wasserman, said this current change should be a wake-up call to all companies that use social media and the influencers active there to publicize their products.

“When I started practicing FTC law over 25 years ago, even though there were advertisements in the newspapers, on the radio, on billboards and more, most FTC cases against dietary supplements were brought against claims made in television advertisements, including infomercials, because that was the medium with the most power to mislead the most consumers. ‘has moved to the Internet, and in particular to social media’,Wassermaon said NutraIngredients-USA​.

“While the FTC has for some time included social media posts in Covid warning letters and other claims, yesterday’s action was significant because it CC’d social media platforms and even the Shopify e-commerce platform”,he said.

“The FTC’s position has always been that it can take action not only against the advertiser of the product, but against anyone who has participated in the creation or dissemination of misleading claims and who has profited from ‘evil gains’. I’m sure these cc’s are making a lot of noise in the legal departments of these companies and many other companies”,Wasserman added.

Focus FTC at the Sports & Active Nutrition Summit

Wasserman will present a session on the FTC’s recent more aggressive enforcement stance at the upcoming Sports & Active Nutrition Summit, which returns face-to-face February 14-16. The venue is the Hyatt Regency Hotel on San Diego’s beautiful Mission Bay. For more information and to secure your place, use the links below.

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