FTC cracks down on exaggerated marketing claims related to Covid-19
As the fear of Covid-19 infections looms among consumers, a growing number of companies are being targeted by market regulators for exaggerated marketing.
The Fair Trade Commission slapped a one million won ($838) fine on BM Pharmaceutical Sunday for publishing exaggerated claims on the packaging of its attachable virus patches. The company misled consumers with unsupported scientific claims about the patches' ability to protect users from the SARS strand of Covid-19, known commonly as the coronavirus.
The pharmaceutical company claimed its patches were 87 percent effective against the coronavirus since late February, a claim which was dismissed by the antitrust watchdog for having no scientific evidence to back it up.
“The patch’s claimed anti-viral ability against the SARS strand of Covid-19 is only limited to waterborne diarrhea viruses that infect livestock,” said Lee Dong-mee, an official from the consumer policy division of the FTC’s Seoul office.
“There’s no hard evidence that the patches can prevent human infections caused by airborne pathogens of the coronavirus.”
The FTC also ruled that BM Pharmaceutical’s claim that the patches tested effectively in killing the H1N1 virus was false.
This is not the first time government regulators uncovered exaggerated marketing related to the coronavirus.
Early on, the FTC sent a warning to air purifier manufacturers as it noticed most of them were not approved by the Korea Testing Laboratory but advertised their products' ability to filter out coronaviruses in the air.
It cracked down on 45 manufacturers and asked them to change their advertisements that could mislead customers. Currently, there are no air filters officially approved by a governmental organization proven effective in filtering out airborne pathogens of Covid-19.
The Food and Drug Administration also uncovered 130 disinfectant companies and 248 e-commerce platforms that deceived customers. These companies falsely advertised disinfectants used for objects as safe for human use, claiming they are “safe to drink” and “safe to apply to human skin”.
The watchdog said on July 15 it will carry out administrative punishments against these companies.
“The FTC will continue to monitor the advertisement of products that claim to have virus reducing or killing abilities, to prevent customers from being misled by scientifically false or overexaggerated marketing,” said the FTC.
“We hope this will give a signal to the market that companies should have scientific proof before adding any advertisements that their products are effective in fighting the coronavirus.”
BY KANG JAE-EUN [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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