The Federal Trade Commission has warned Web site operators who made claims that their products can prevent, treat, or cure the Influenza A/H1N1 virus, commonly known as swine flu, that they must have scientific proof to support their claims. The FTC told the companies, whose products include dietary supplements, air filtration devices, and cleaning agents, that without scientific proof they are violating federal law and must drop the claims or face further action.
“Scam artists follow the headlines, trying to make a fast buck with products that play off the news – and prey on concerned people,” said Eileen Harrington, Acting Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “We’re online and telling e-marketers their sites must comply with the law.”
The FTC reminds consumers that the only products recommended for use are the prescription antiviral drugs, Oseltamivir (brand name Tamiflu) and Zanamivir (brand name Relenza).
FTC staff identified 10 Web sites making suspect flu treatment, prevention, or cure claims. Of these 10, four domestic Web sites already have complied with the FTC’s request by removing questionable Web pages; one site was referred to the Food and Drug Administration; three foreign Web sites will be referred to the FTC’s international counterparts; and two other sites remain under review.
FTC staff will revisit all the Web sites later to determine if further law enforcement action is warranted. Because the Web sites are the subjects of ongoing FTC investigations, their identities are confidential.
The FTC has developed a new Consumer Alert, Rx for Products That Claim to Prevent H1N1? A Healthy Dose of Skepticism, which warns the public to be skeptical of claims that products like pills, air filtration devices, and cleaning agents can kill or eliminate the virus. The alert advises consumers to:
To learn more, go to http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt083.shtm.
Consumers who wish to file a complaint against a company that they believe may be deceptively advertising H1N1 flu products are urged to call 1–877–FTC–HELP (1–877–382– 4357) or visit https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/.
The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,500 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s Web site provides free information on a variety of consumer topics.