GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The owners of two companies that allegedly tried to profit from coronavirus fears have been accused of deceptive practices before.
In April 2012, consumer advocates called out a Rockford company for claiming the technology behind its “Ionic Foot Bath” could “eliminate parasites and pinworms.”
The foot bath peddler was also selling HCG weight-loss tablets, a homeopathic product against which the FDA has issued stern warnings.
At the time, the Better Business Bureau Serving West Michigan confronted the company, requesting that it provide substantiation for its medical claims and remove any statements suggesting HCG leads to weight loss.
“This company has a history of making medical claims about the products they sell that aren’t substantiated or backed up by medical evidence,” said Troy Baker, director of the BBB Educational Foundation, in an interview Wednesday.
Baker said in May 2012, the business refused to provide any evidence supporting its medical statements or remove them from its website.
Because of that, the non-profit consumer watchdog posted its concerns on the company’s page within the BBB database.
8 years later, company promotes “Coronavirus Defender Patch”
Fast forward almost eight years and Michigan’s attorney general received a complaint about two Rockford businesses trying to sell a “Coronavirus Defender Patch.”
The businesses, Frequency Apps, Corps and Biores Technologies, Inc., are owned by Adam Todd Petty and his wife, Sally Petty, the same couple that in 2012 was trying to sell foot baths and weight-loss pills.
“I feel it is my duty to forward this email to your office, especially given the concerns regarding the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus,” wrote the person who reported the companies to the attorney general’s office.
The complainant, whose name the state did not release, provided the AG with an email in which the business promoted the alleged benefits of the “Coronavirus Defender Patch.”
“This company is providing misleading, unproven and likely illegal information regarding the effectiveness of their product on the virus. I am concerned this could lead purchasers to have a false sense of security and to ignore proper safety methods to prevent the spread of the virus. I hope you will be able to instruct this company to cease advertising or face penalties,” wrote the complainant to Michigan’s attorney general.
AG to business: You’re trying to profit from fear
On Tuesday, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel issued a cease-and-desist order against the companies, alleging they made misleading and deceitful claims.
“We have learned that you are marketing to consumers for sale the “Coronavirus Defender patch,” which you claim will “help aid the immune system to defend itself against exposure to the virus,” and “can help lessen the effect of the virus if you already have the COVID-19 virus,” wrote the attorney general in the order.
“You have priced the patch at $49.99 but state that you may receive a 30-day supply of the patch for free when you buy a 45-day supply of any patches your companies sell. It appears you are attempting to profit from the public’s fear surrounding the coronavirus, otherwise known as COVID-19. We have received a complaint from a consumer…. the consumer’s concerns are well founded. Currently, there are no vaccines, drugs, or other treatments approved to prevent or treat the virus.”
In the online ad for the patch, the company claimed it could prevent coronavirus or, if it’s already been contracted, treat its symptoms.
“Are you looking to prevent the coronavirus?” read the promotion on the companies’ website.
Ad: Already have symptoms? Wear two patches
“The COVID-19 defender is designed to be used as a preventative measure against the coronavirus disease 2019. The patch is placed on the upper left side of the body (shoulder, upper left arm, left chest), and exchanged every three days. For the best results, continue to use the Defender until the likelihood of contracting the COVID-19 virus is gone. If you have already contracted the virus, the COVID-19 Defender Patch can be worn at the first sign of symptoms, wear at (sic) two patches (one on the left and one on the right) changing them every three days, continue with two patches until symptoms are no longer present.”
Target 8 tried to contact Adam and Sally Petty at the Cedar Springs address they list as home.
A man answered the door, presumably a relative, but immediately said, “I’m sorry,” and shut the door.
We also tried to reach the Pettys by phone and Facebook. They have not responded.
The attorney general’s office, in its letter to Adam Petty, said it’s taking steps to file a civil lawsuit against the company or commence an investigation.
“Your inappropriate sales tactics are especially concerning in light of the public health emergency Michiganders face, which unfortunately cannot be simply patched up as you suggest,” wrote an assistant attorney general in the cease-and-desist letter.
The AG gave Adam Petty ten days to provide the state with “assurance of voluntary compliance under the (Consumer Protection) Act.
“To be acceptable to this Office, such assurances must include an agreement that you will not market or sell your “Coronavirus Defender patches” to Michigan consumers. Additionally, we are requesting that you provide our office, within ten days, contact information for all consumers that have purchased these patches from your company,” wrote the attorney general.
Frequency Apps, Inc, has apparently removed its web content.
A search for its website now brings up a page that says “Maintenance mode is on. Site will be available soon. Thank you for your patience.”