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Strapit fined $37,800 for alleged advertising breaches for disinfectant and hand sanitiser in relation to COVID-19

24 July 2020

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), part of the Department of Health, issued three infringement notices today totalling $37,800 to Melbourne-based company Strapit Medical and Sports Supplies Pty Ltd, for alleged unlawful advertising in relation to COVID-19.

Strapit Medical and Sports Supplies allegedly claimed, on its website, that a Zafe Zone product for use on surfaces and skin killed COVID-19, without having the necessary authorisations from the TGA.

"Advertisements like this could lead the businesses who are purchasing these products into thinking that they will protect them and the people who visit their facilities from COVID-19, when this has not been established by the TGA," Adj. Professor John Skerritt, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Health, said.

"In fact, this type of advertising is potentially dangerous, particularly during the pandemic. We encourage businesses to become familiar with the legal requirements for advertising these types of products, which are set out on the TGA's website, and to contact us if you are uncertain."

Under the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 (the Act), any claims or references that a disinfectant has an effect against viruses, including coronavirus (and related terms) are prohibited representations. The use of prohibited representations in advertisements for therapeutic goods is unlawful without permission from the TGA.

Strapit Medical and Sports Supplies allegedly advertised the disinfectant and hand sanitiser product when it was not included in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG), and was neither an exempt good nor a good excluded from the operation of the Act.

Unless a specific exemption, approval or authority applies, therapeutic goods must be entered in the ARTG before they can be lawfully supplied or advertised in Australia.

It is also alleged the advertising falsely claimed the product had been approved by the TGA, as Strapit Medical and Sports Supplies stated "TGA approved evidence-based cutting edge technology", when no such approval has been given.

Advertisers must not make any statement that implies the goods have been recommended or approved by a government, except in very limited circumstances. This includes statements that therapeutic goods have been approved by the TGA or international regulators.

These advertisements are of significant concern to the TGA given the current pandemic. The TGA has published a warning to advertisers and consumers about illegal advertising relating to COVID-19.

The TGA has also warned about products claiming to treat or prevent the novel coronavirus.

The TGA is investigating other entities that have been the subject of complaints about alleged unlawful advertising of disinfectants and hand sanitisers in relation to COVID-19.

For information about hand sanitisers, see Hand sanitisers: Information for manufacturers, suppliers and advertisers and Hand sanitisers: Information for consumers.

The TGA takes action against advertising breaches

The regulatory scheme is critical to the safety of Australian consumers and the TGA investigates suspected illegal activity in relation to therapeutic goods. A range of compliance and enforcement tools are available and may include criminal or civil court proceedings, which can result in substantial penalties, fines or imprisonment.

Any person, including businesses, advertising therapeutic goods to consumers must comply with the requirements for advertising. The TGA encourages people to report suspected non-compliant advertising via its advertising complaints form.

The TGA website includes tips for consumers about how to spot a dodgy health product.

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