Coronavirus fears breed scams and misleading marketing – companies must act responsibly

One of the by-products of the uncertainty caused by coronavirus is a proliferation of scams. The Consumer Ombudsman and other European consumer authorities are now working together with the European Commission to combat scam attempts and misleading marketing using both national and international measures.

The Consumer Ombudsman warns that there are coronavirus-related scam attempts and misleading marketing also in Finland. The use of exaggerated health claims and marketing of different miracle products seems to have increased. In addition, consumers may be rushed or pressured to make decisions. At the same time, familiar products such as hand sanitisers and detergents may be marketed at a higher price. These exceptional circumstances are also a good time for criminals to develop scams that appear credible.

Unfair commercial practices are prohibited even in exceptional times. Marketing professionals in particular should now think about their operating methods and their company’s capacity to carry out its corporate social responsibility.

‘Companies must act responsibly and not take advantage of the fear associated with this exceptional situation,’ states Consumer Ombudsman Katri Väänänen.

Authorities ready to intervene to restrain marketing excesses

The European Commission and European consumer authorities have taken action to prevent corona-related scams. For example, the European Commission has demanded that large marketers and platforms engage in cooperation to combat scams in line with the common position adopted by the CPC network.

It is important that companies and platforms act responsibly and ensure that they do not, for example, advertise their products in an unlawful manner or propagate false statements and scams through their own services. The EU has drawn up legislation regarding what kinds of marketing claims and procedures should be considered as unfair and misleading or as aggressive.

Platforms and other marketing entities should take concrete and effective measures to remove unlawful marketing campaigns from their websites. Platforms including Facebook, Google and Amazon, as well as the Finnish, have said that they have already started implementing measures of their own accord.

The Finnish authorities are monitoring closely the situation with scams and are prepared to intervene through monitoring measures to tackle any excesses observed. The FCCA provides information on any known scams through its own communication channels.

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Information and instructions for consumers on FCCA social media channels: