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Zafe Zone fined almost $40,000 for alleged advertising breaches for disinfectant products 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 $39,960 to Melbourne-based company Italian Princess Coffee Brands Pty Ltd (trading as Zafe Zone), for alleged unlawful advertising in relation to COVID-19.

Zafe Zone allegedly promoted its disinfectant as effective against coronavirus, without having the necessary authorisation from the TGA.

"Promoting disinfectants that have not been subjected to the TGA's regulatory framework has the potential to put the public at risk," Adj. Professor John Skerritt, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Health said.

"If businesses are thinking about diversifying to include disinfectants, hand sanitisers or other therapeutic goods, we encourage them to look at the legal requirements for advertising on our website, seek assistance from a legal or regulatory adviser, or contact us if they're uncertain."

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

The advertising allegedly breached the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code (No.2) 2018 by promoting a therapeutic good as being safe, harmless or without side-effects. Advertisements for therapeutic goods must not state or imply that the goods are safe.

It is also alleged Zafe Zone falsely advertised the product had been approved by the TGA.

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 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 the novel coronavirus.

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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