Justice Department and FTC File Suit to Stop Deceptive Marketing of Nasal Spray Product Advertised as Purported COVID-19 Treatment
(STL.News) The Department of Justice, together with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Thursday announced a civil enforcement action against defendants Xlear Inc. and Nathan Jones for alleged violations of the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act and the FTC Act.
According to a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for District of Utah, the defendants advertised that their saline nasal spray product could prevent or treat COVID-19, without competent or reliable scientific evidence to support those claims. Further, the defendants allegedly made deceptive statements about several scientific studies to bolster their unproven COVID-19 claims.
The COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act, passed by Congress in December 2020, prohibits deceptive acts or practices associated with the treatment, cure, prevention, mitigation or diagnosis of COVID-19. The complaint also alleges violations of the FTC Act, which prohibits unfair and deceptive conduct, as well as false advertising. The complaint seeks civil penalties and injunctive relief to stop the defendants from continuing to make deceptive advertising claims.
“The Department of Justice will not tolerate individuals or companies attempting to profit from the current public health emergency by unlawfully and deceptively advertising unproven products,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division. “The department is committed to working with the FTC to enforce the FTC Act and the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act against those who unlawfully market unproven COVID-19 treatments.”
“Companies can’t make unsupported health claims, no matter what form a product takes or what it supposedly prevents or treats,” said Director Samuel Levine of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “That’s the lesson of this case and many others like it, and it’s why people should continue to rely on medical professionals over ads.”
This matter is being handled by Trial Attorneys Noah Katzen and Alisha Crovetto of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel Ferre from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Utah. Keith Fentonmiller and Courtney A. Estep represent the FTC.
On May 17, 2021 the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud.
The Task Force bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud by, among other methods, augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and harnessing information and insights gained from prior enforcement efforts.