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E&C Leaders Urge FTC Action on Deceptive Advertising and Dangerous Misinformation on Coronavirus Pandemic

Mar 13, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Three Energy and Commerce Committee leaders wrote to Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairman Joseph Simons today urging him to take immediate action to prevent deceptive advertising and dangerous misinformation related to the coronavirus global pandemic.  

The letter was signed by Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chair Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee Chair Jan Schakowsky (D-IL).

“As the outbreak worsens in the United States, the American public is increasingly susceptible to scammers who claim to sell a cure for COVID-19, advertise counterfeit face masks, or suggest unsubstantiated preventive health measures,” Pallone, DeGette and Schakowsky wrote to Simons.  “Your agency has a responsibility to protect all consumers from fraud and deception in the marketplace, and that mandate has never been more urgent.  Conspiracy theories, propaganda, and harmful online content sow panic and could actively disrupt our nation’s ability to contain the spread of COVID-19.”

Numerous reports detail products on online platforms making false claims related to their ability to cure, treat and prevent coronavirus, advertising that could mislead consumers searching for public health advice and dangerous misinformation on messaging platforms.

Last week, an Amazon executive testified before the Committee that the company had already removed more than one million products making false claims related to COVID-19.  While this is a good start, the three Committee leaders voiced concern that millions more will likely continue to proliferate on Amazon’s platform.

“E-commerce platforms have already proven themselves incapable of policing malicious activity before the COVID-19 outbreak, and we simply cannot rely on these companies to protect Americans during a public health emergency,” Pallone, DeGette and Schakowsky continued.  “We urge you to take immediate action to go after companies seeking to defraud consumers and hold industry responsible when they fail to enforce their own existing policies.”

The members requested a briefing for Committee staff no later than March 20. 

Read the letter to FTC HERE.