On March 6, 2020, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent warning letters to companies that are allegedly selling products using deceptive or scientifically unsupported claims about their ability to treat coronavirus (COVID-19). Warning letters were sent to Colloidal Vitality LLC, Quinessence Aromatherapy Ltd., N-ergetics, GuruNanda, LLC, Vivify Holistic Clinic, Herbal Amy Inc., and The Jim Bakker Show. Among the products advertised are teas, essential oils, herbs, and colloidal silver.

The FDA and FTC warned recipients, among other potential claims, that it is unlawful under the FTC Act, 15 U.S.C. 41 et seq., to market a product as one that can prevent, treat, or cure human disease without competent and reliable scientific evidence substantiating that the claims are true at the time they are made. To make or exaggerate such claims, whether directly or indirectly, without rigorous scientific evidence sufficient to substantiate the claims violates the FTC Act.

The letters advise recipients to immediately cease making all claims that their products can treat or cure coronavirus, as such claims are currently not supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence. The FTC cautioned that “[t]hese warning letters are just the first step. [The FTC is] prepared to take enforcement actions against companies that continue to market this type of scam.” The FTC is also warning companies more generally, “[i]f your business is making Coronavirus claims, stop.”

Facebook and Amazon are addressing similar coronavirus claims on their respective platforms. Facebook recently announced that it would ban advertisements for products offering cures or prevention of coronavirus (e.g. ads with claims like “facemasks are 100% guaranteed to prevent the spread of the virus” will not be allowed). Amazon similarly removed more than a million products from its platform that made false claims related to the virus.