EDITOR'S SPOTLIGHT: SCIENCE & REGULATION

Italian authorities clamp down on e-retailer coronavirus claims

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

©AGCM
©AGCM

Related tags: AGCM, coronavirus, Manuka honey

Italy’s Competition and Market Authority (AGCM) has ordered an online retailer to stop using preventive claims against the coronavirus to sell supplement, cosmetic and detergent products.

In a statement, the Authority said it had started an investigation into the activities of the Naples-based website ‘carlitashop,’ and its related Instagram pages, ‘carlitashop_online’ and ‘theCarlitadolce.’

Both pages promote its ‘Supplement Antivirale Manuka,’ that uses the hashtag ‘#coronavirus’ as well as statements describing the product’s antiviral capabilities and efficacy in tackling the COVID-19 virus.

“The adoption of an emergency measure was deemed essential in order to stop the spread of an extremely serious practice, such as to make the intervention of the Authority indifferent,”​ the AGCM says.

“The Authority considers the methods used to promote these products are deceptive and aggressive, as the site takes advantage of consumers’ ability to assess the situation due to the ever-changing increase in the number of subjects infected by COVID-19.”

Coronavirus-fighting properties

The AGCM goes on to describe the site’s homepage, which along with the ‘Manuka Defense Plus Optima Naturals Antiviral Supplement,’ is also selling ‘Optima Naturalis Antibacterial Purifying Antiviral Antibacterial Essential Oil,’ as a product with coronavirus-fighting properties.

Other products include the ‘Manuka Defence antiviral supplement Plus Optima Naturals,’ the ‘Alkemilla sesame oil,’ and the ‘Alkemilla Tea Tree intimate cleanser.’

The retailer’s ‘Manuka Essential Oil’ is also advertised on its site as ‘Antiviral Purifying Antibacterial Optima Naturalis.’

The retailer attributed the products’ abilities to strengthen the immune system to its “active ingredients, which exhibit antimicrobial capacity, especially against certain pathologies and microorganisms that trigger inflammation in the respiratory tract and lungs”.

AGCM meeting

“The disputed behaviours appear contrary to professional diligence capable of inducing the average consumer to make commercial decisions which they otherwise would not have taken,”​ the AGCM said in its latest meeting (22nd​ March).

“The statements spread through Instagram and the website on their cosmetic product and supplements’ antiviral capabilities and prevention of coronavirus infection.

“This was likely to mislead the consumer, leading them to believe that they, contrary to the truth, can have preventive efficacy against COVID-19.”

The Authority warned that non-compliance with their resolution would result in an increase of a fine from €10,000 to €5,000,000.

Repeated non-compliance by the retailer means the Authority may order the suspension of the business activity for a period not exceeding thirty days.

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