The Italian Antitrust Authority fights waives of unfair commercial practices deceiving consumers during the Coronavirus outbreak
The Covid-19 emergency has affected the entire world population; among all the severe consequences, the proliferation of unfair commercial practices on online platforms turned out to be one of the most worrying. Some traders actually try to leverage the vulnerabilities of consumers to sell products such as face masks, sanitizing cleaners and drugs that are advertised as capable of preventing or treating Coronavirus infection. These unfair practices have been ascertained during the investigation of the European Commission, that launched a joint action to protect consumers from such rogue traders. In this context, the Consumer Protection Cooperation Network (CPC), published a common position to stop scams and to tackle unfair practices during the Covid-19 outbreak in the EU.
The Italian Competition Authority, member of the CPC, has taken some concrete actions against several websites adopting questionable conducts related to the COVID-19 emergency:
- an investigation against Tiger Group S.r.l. was launched in order to suspend, as an interim measure, the promotion and sale of personal protective equipment differing from those advertised in terms of quality and technical characteristics, certifications and country of origin, and not available for delivery by the time set for delivery.
- An investigation against Wish was launched, in regards of the sale on the platform wish.com of products for the prevention of the Covid-19 infection and the use of claimswhich attribute specific effectiveness to some products in terms of protection and fight against the Coronavirus.
- An investigation was launched towards the website www.oxystore.it ; they promote the activity of oxygen therapy as "one of the most effective systems to treat symptoms related to the new generation Coronavirus" . Moreover, the website offers a "prevention kit" described as "equipped with everything you need to monitor and improve the body’s immune response"; it consists of a stationary oxygen concentrator and various accessories and it is sold at the price of 995 euro. In addition, on the above mentioned website some deceptive statements have been discovered, like "all that remains is to rely on the simplest and easily findable tool on the market: the oxygen concentrator", which "is now proving to be a fundamental lifesaver both in prevention and especially in therapy".
- The drug “Kaletra”, sold by farmaciamaschile.it, www.farmacocoronavirus.it , was offered at high prices (€384 for the small pack or €659 for the large pack) and advertised as a product with proven effectiveness against Covid-19. The ICA suspended the sale of such a drug.
- The website testcoronavirus.shop.it was shut down to stop the spreading of an extremely serious practice consisting of advertising a medical device to self –diagnose possible Covid-19 infection. Moreover, the ICA has suspended the sell of this device through the platform https://carlitashop.com and advertised on the related Instagram page.