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Consumer Ombudsman warns against false coronavirus-related advertising

Many vendors have prohibited the use of the virus as part of their marketing spiel.

Käsisaippuahylly kaupassa.
The scientifically factual best way to break up coronavirus cells is to use ordinary soap. Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

The Consumer Ombudsman has said she wants to put a stop to firms exploiting the novel coronavirus pandemic to make false claims and push dubious products and services to unwitting consumers.

Consumer Ombudsman Katri Väänänen said in a release on Monday that various EU consumer authorities have begun a series of reforms to combat the misuse of the coronavirus pandemic by vendors.

The move comes as organisations and merchants in Finland and elsewhere began using the pandemic as a selling point to make exaggerated claims and peddle so-called "miracle products", the ombudsman added.

The European Commission has also gotten involved and is demanding that large companies cooperate to stamp out false and manipulative coronavirus-related advertising. Some vendor platforms such as Facebook, Google and the Finnish auction website Tori.fi have already announced efforts to eradicate misleading Covid-19-related ads.

Väänänen also reminded consumers that unfair business practices are prohibited even in exceptional circumstances, and added that companies should consider their social mandates and responsibility to society.

"Companies must work responsibly and refrain from profiting off of the fear induced by an exceptional situation," she wrote.

Previously both the Finnish National Bureau of Investigation and Interpol have warned people of impostors who have tried to sell hand sanitiser and even some invented hygiene products with outrageous claims, both door-to-door and online.

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