FTC Warns Web Sites Marketing Anti-Bioterror Products
The Federal Trade Commission yesterday warned 71 Web sites to "stop making unproven claims" about bioterrorism protection devices, including gas masks that "might not work as advertised" and ultraviolet lights "falsely touted" as anthrax protection, the AP/Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Although the agency did not name the sites that received the warnings, sent via e-mail, it said that 60 of the warnings involved devices aimed at protecting against nuclear, biological or chemical weapons. Howard Beales, the FTC's director of consumer protection, said that the agency suspects the Web sites of "promoting the devices with misleading or unsupported claims" that exaggerate the protection that they offer. He added, "If they're making these kind of claims, they have to have scientific proof that the product actually works." The FTC has been working with the FDA and law enforcement officials in 30 states to "scour the Internet" for "misleading claims" about bioterror protection; the agency has turned up more than 200 sites that market bioterrorism-related products. In November, the FTC issued e-mail warnings to 50 Web sites "peddl[ing] questionable treatments" for anthrax, smallpox and other potential biological weapons; 50% of those sites have since "dropped their claims" (Ho, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 1/3). The FTC said that penalties for making "deceptive or misleading" claims could include injunctions or civil fines of up to $11,000 per violation. Sellers could also be required to refund customers' money (Reuters/Los Angeles Times, 1/3).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.