FTC sues 3 online PPE sellers, alleging deceptive practices

The Federal Trade Commission filed lawsuits against three online personal protective equipment sellers Aug. 5, alleging they failed to deliver on promises that they could quickly ship face masks, sanitizer and other PPE to protect against COVID-19. 

The agency said the companies — QYK Brands, Zaappaaz Inc. and American Screening — violated the FTC Mail, Internet and Telephone Order rule requiring companies to notify consumers of shipping delays in a timely manner and give consumers the chance to cancel orders and receive prompt refunds. 

The FTC said QYK Brands began advertising sanitizer, masks and face shields online in March, saying they were in stock and would ship the same day they were ordered. The lawsuit alleges QYK Brands continuously made explicit promises about shipping dates and times, but consumer complaints show they repeatedly failed to make good on those promises. 

QYK Brands also made false claims about a product called "Basic Immune IGG," saying it could prevent transmission of COVID-19 and that it was FDA-approved for that purpose, according to the FTC. 

The agency said Zaappaaz Inc. promised that face masks, face shields, thermometers and gloves were in stock and guaranteed to ship the same day as ordered, but the company waited weeks to ship products and failed to inform consumers of the delays. 

The FTC also cited examples of consumers who were promised refunds from Zaappaaz Inc. that never materialized and examples of consumers receiving incorrect or defective products and being told they weren't eligible for refunds. 

The lawsuit against American Screening claims the company promised its items, including PPE sold in bulk, would be shipped within 24 to 48 hours, but took much longer to ship them and failed to follow FTC rules for delayed shipments. 

One consumer told the FTC an order had been placed with American Screening for $10,000 worth of protective gowns for essential workers, but that order hadn't been received more than six weeks later, and no word from the company had been received about the order status. 

"When online merchants lie about the availability of personal protective equipment or about the ability of products to prevent and treat COVID-19, it’s a significant safety concern, and it’s illegal," said Andrew Smith, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. "The FTC will take aggressive action to stop such troubling conduct."

More articles on supply chain:
FDA puts hand sanitizers on import alert, adds more to do-not-use list
Freight, shipping companies say they're not ready to distribute COVID-19 vaccine
See-through masks in high demand as COVID-19 cases rise

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