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Friday, May 20th, 2022

Justice Department, FTC file suit to address deceptive marketing of nasal spray as COVID-19 treatment

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The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) recently partnered with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to address the deceptive marketing of a nasal spray.

The agencies detailed civil enforcement action against defendants Xlear Inc. and Nathan Jones for alleged violations of the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act and the FTC Act.

The complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for District of Utah alleges the defendants advertised their saline nasal spray product could prevent or treat COVID-19 without competent or reliable scientific evidence to support those claims.

The defendants also allegedly made deceptive statements about several scientific studies to bolster the unproven COVID-19 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,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division, said. “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.”

The DOJ and FTC noted the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act prohibits deceptive acts or practices associated with the treatment, cure, prevention, mitigation, or diagnosis of COVID-19. The complaint additionally alleges violations of the FTC Act prohibiting unfair and deceptive conduct and false advertising.

“Companies can’t make unsupported health claims, no matter what form a product takes or what it supposedly prevents or treats,” FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection Director Samuel Levine said. “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.”

Officials said the complaint is seeking civil penalties and injunctive relief.