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Yarra Valley Cleaning Co fined $39,960 for alleged unlawful advertising of a disinfectant product in relation to COVID-19

28 August 2020

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), part of the Department of Health, has issued three infringement notices for $39,960 to Melbourne-based company Yarra Valley Cleaning Co Pty Ltd for the alleged unlawful advertising of a disinfectant product in relation to COVID-19.

Yarra Valley Cleaning Co allegedly advertised, on its website, a disinfectant product that 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 Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 (the Act). Unless a specific exemption, approval or authority applies, therapeutic goods must be entered in the ARTG before they can be lawfully advertised in Australia.

Yarra Valley Cleaning Co allegedly claimed that 'Sanitise IT' is 99.9999% effective against viruses, including COVID-19. Under the Act, claims or references that a disinfectant product has an effect against viruses, including COVID-19, are prohibited representations. The use of prohibited representations in advertisements for therapeutic goods is unlawful without prior permission from the TGA.

The advertising on the company's website was allegedly misleading and implied the disinfectant product was entered in the ARTG, when it was not. Advertising for therapeutic goods must be truthful, balanced and not misleading. This includes any implied claims.

The TGA has informed Yarra Valley Cleaning Co that the relevant advertising must be immediately removed from the company's website.

Advertising of this nature is 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 provided regulatory information for sponsors and manufacturers of cleaners and disinfectants and a warning about products claiming to treat or prevent COVID-19.

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

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 toolsare 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.