Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum stated the companies were selling and advertising products and services as a “so-called Covid-19 ‘cure'” and were advertising in a way that told people they were selling to boost immunity and keep people healthy from the virus.
The attorney general’s office said all the claims were unproven scientifically or were not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Center for Disease Control, or even the World Health Organization.
“Understandably, people are scared about contracting Covid-19 and these companies and clinics preyed on that fear. We would all love an easy ‘fix’ or a ‘cure’ to Covid-19, but companies cannot sell something that has not been approved by the CDC or the FDA,” said Attorney General Rosenblum in a statement. “Selling false promises could have dangerous consequences to somebody’s health and give people a false sense of security.”
The three companies cited in southern Oregon were Ashland Natural Medicine and Holistic Health Acupuncture in Ashland and Heirloom Organics in Grants Pass.
The Ashland businesses were both cited for promoting herbal remedies that were useful in alleviating or preventing illness. Heirloom Organics was marked for selling protection kits ranging from about $170 to nearly $500. Each kit had face masks and biohazard gear that the company said were approved by the CDC or the WHO to protect specifically against COVID-19. The attorney general’s office said those claims were inaccurate.
“Oftentimes they were some sort of natural oils or herbal products, something like that that supposedly cured or reduced likelihood of contracting Covid-19,” said Chuck Harwood, regional director of the Federal Trade Commission.
Each company was sent a warning letter from the FTC telling them to cease all sales and advertisements of the products or services. The commission says it’s received over 1,100 complaints regarding COVID-related trade issues. A third of those involved false advertising of products.
“They’re making those representations based on no scientific analysis on whether the product actually works on COVID-19,” said Harwood. “Covid-19 is just too new to have the kinds of studies you’d expect to see people doing.”
The commission has sent some 250 warning letters to businesses across the country including those in Oregon. The FTC says this type of fake advertising becomes more common during national emergencies as people’s fears and concerns cloud their normal judgement. Harwood says they’ve seen this type of issue pop up after instances like 9-11 but the degree of products being peddled for a pandemic of this magnitude is unprecedented.
“We’re scared, we’re not sure what’s happening and I think in that situation people are willing to take a few more risks,” said Harwood. “So we are seeing people that are trying products, things, treatments maybe they wouldn’t try in other circumstances.”
The companies cited have settled with the Oregon attorney general. They can no longer promote claims their products can provide cure to Covid-19. So far, there is still no cure for this virus.
The FTC asks that if you have a complaint about a company that is citing products that can cure COVID-19, report to your state attorney general or the FTC page online.
To report Covid-19 related fraud, call 877-877-9392 or file a complaint online at www.OregonConsumer.gov. Consumers who have concerns about price gouging are encouraged to call the DOJ’s price gouging hotline at 503-378-8442.