In times like these, companies around the world are stepping up to manufacture badly needed supplies to help everyone stay safe and reduce the spread of COVID-19. While working to bring these products to the market, companies should be sure they are also taking appropriate prophylactic measures to protect themselves by reviewing the product packaging and the claims they make on the packaging, labels, and in their marketing.
The FTC, FDA, and EPA are working hard to protect consumers and competition throughout the pandemic, which includes ensuring that products entering the market are properly labeled and not misleading, deceptive, or unfair. As in normal times, product claims (such as effectiveness against certain diseases) and product labels should be reviewed before a product goes to market to ensure that they at least meet the respective requirements for the type of product and its intended uses. Since the beginning of this crisis, the FTC and FDA have sent more than 25 joint warning letters to companies allegedly selling unapproved products that may make deceptive or unsupported claims about their ability to treat or cure COVID-19. This is in addition to more than 30 warning letters sent individually by the FTC. The recipients sell a wide range of products including teas, essential oils, cannabidiol (CBD) products, supplements, colloidal silver, silicone face brushes, and intravenous “therapies” consisting of high doses of Vitamin C. This increased action coincides with a tremendous volume of COVID-19-related fraud complaints; over 7,800 complaints had been received by the FTC as of March 31, 2020, doubling the number of complaints received from the beginning of the year through March 24, 2020 and demonstrating a disturbing trend of fraud taking advantage of public fears related to COVID-19. Taking a little extra time to fully evaluate the claims you make on your products and in your marketing not only protects your business, it also protects your customers as they navigate finding reliable products to keep themselves and their loved ones safe.
While claims about effectiveness against SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — are an immediate focus, these regulatory agencies are continuing with their normal activities to ensure that consumers have accurate and reliable information they need about products available on the market. Ensuring that your products have proper manufacturer/distributor information, correct labels accurately representing the contents, and that the labels and marketing only contain claims that you can support with reliable scientific evidence, among many other issues, is essential to protect your customers and your business. Environmental and “green” claims, “Made in USA,” and other claims made on your product packaging and in your marketing also continue to be hot buttons for the FTC that require review and substantiation before you bring your products to the market. Whether in pandemic times or just a regular Tuesday, ensuring the accuracy and truthfulness of the information you share about your products should be an essential aspect of how you engage your customers.
Don’t let your good intentions and desire to help cause problems for your business. Properly labeling your products and reviewing your advertising claims helps the public to have confidence in your company and bolsters your reputation, allowing your company to take full advantage of the boost you might see from being a good corporate citizen. Protorae Law is here to help you review your product and advertising claims and your product packaging so that you can minimize your risk while working to help your community. Stay safe and sane (and in the good graces of the FTC, FDA, EPA, and your customers) during these trying times.