Misleading ads target consumers amid pandemic

Posted at 8:35 PM, Mar 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-24 20:35:11-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. — While dealing with a pandemic is challenging for most of us, some are looking at it as an opportunity.

The Better Business Bureau has received several reports of misleading coronavirus ads in Lee County the past few weeks.

April Perkins told Fox 4 an air conditioning company called her promising to kill COVID-19 by cleaning her air ducts.

That’s not completely wrong. Since you can kill the virus by disinfecting surfaces. The Centers for Disease Control said the virus can last on surfaces for several days.

But Bryan Oglesby with the BBB said ask lots of questions and don’t take anything companies say at face value.

“It really depends on the extent of the advertising. Are they making erroneous claims, very bold claims? And do they have studies to back up those claims?” he said.

Perkins said she’s really concerned about the elderly, and those inclined to move quickly as fear settles in.

“My frustration is that they’re not going to stop and think first,” she said.

She hung up on the sales pitch before she heard any prices because she doesn’t think it’s right.

“Taking advantage of the consumers at a state of emergency right now,” she said.

Oglesby said offering to clean and combat coronavirus is acceptable, but can be investigated depending on circumstances.

“It seems like a legitimate business maybe doing aggressive advertising. If a consumer feels it was deceptive or misleading, then they can file that as a complaint against a business,” he said.

He added legitimate or not, pressure from any company is something to watch out for.

“If they’re claiming they can stop the spread of coronavirus now, call us to hire our services, that’s going to be a red flag,” he said.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services also posted a warning today.

Commissioner Nikki Fried is cracking down on anyone who misleads or deceives during “our collective time of need.”

If you’re suspicious of misleading ads amid the coronavirus pandemic, you can file a complaint with the BBB or FDACS.