Coronavirus | Health & Safety | Loss Prevention | Product Safety & Labelling | Product Safety

Competition Bureau cracking down on deceptive marketing claims about COVID-19 prevention or treatment

May 6, 2020

The Competition Bureau is warning all businesses against making false or misleading claims that their products and services can prevent, treat or cure COVID-19.

The Bureau has issued direct compliance warnings to a variety of businesses across Canada, including a national retailer, to stop potentially deceptive claims, including warnings against:

  • making claims that herbal remedies, bee-related products, vitamins, vegetables or other food and drink products can prevent COVID-19 infections; and
  • making claims—without first conducting the testing required by law—that certain UV and ozone air sterilization systems, as well as certain air filters or air purifiers, will effectively kill or filter out the virus.

A checklist for businesses:

  1. Know the law: The Competition Act prohibits false or misleading claims about any product, service, or business interest. This includes both the literal meaning of the claims and the general impression they create. The Competition Act also prohibits any performance claims that are not backed up by adequate and proper testing, which must be conducted before the claims are made. Such testing must also be conducted on the product being sold (not a “similar” or “comparable” product), must reflect its real world usage (such as in-home use), and the results of the tests must support the general impression created by the claims. The Textile Labelling Act and the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act also prohibit false or misleading claims on the labels of consumer textiles and prepackaged products. 
  2. Review your marketing practices: Conduct a comprehensive review of your marketing practices to identify any claims that could reasonably be associated with COVID-19. This may include claims on websites, social media and product labelling. It may also include the keywords in website metadata or online advertising campaigns used to attract customers to your website.
  3. Take corrective action: Take immediate action to correct any potentially false, misleading or untested claims and ensure your marketing practices comply with the law.
  4. Promote continued compliance: Businesses of all types and sizes can minimize their risk of engaging in false or misleading advertising and other anticompetitive activity by maintaining a corporate compliance program.

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