Medical sites caught in Commerce Commission sweep

The Commerce Commission won't reveal the names of any of the websites it has found making false or misleading claims about health benefits of their products because they are under investigation for breaching the Fair Trading Act.

The Commerce Commission won't reveal the names of any of the websites it has found making false or misleading claims about health benefits of their products because they are under investigation for breaching the Fair Trading Act.

Found as part of a world-wide sweep last month, 53 websites operating in the .nz name space were discovered to be making claims about the therapeutic value of goods sold online, including so-called cures for diseases such as cancer and HIV/AIDS. Some of the sites claimed to have approval or authorisation from official sources.

Commerce Commission fair trading project advisor David Snowden says there are 10 separate sites where breaches of the Fair Trading Act have clearly been made.

"By virtue of that breach [of the Medicines Act] they are also in breach of the Fair Trading Act."

Snowden says that if any product is sold in New Zealand and claim to have a health benefit it has to be registered as a medicine.

"If these people are making therapeutic claims that can't be substantiated or are without foundation then it's a breach."

The sites were uncovered during an annual worldwide sweep of online consumer-goods sites. In the past such sweeps have targeted get rich quick schemes as well as miracle cures. The sweep is organised by the International Marketing Supervision Network, a cooperative affair the includes members of consumer protection agencies from around the world.

A total of 1400 sites were identified as suspicious worldwide. All were sent an email informing them of the sweep before hand and follow-up warning letters have also been sent. The Commerce Commission is continuing to monitor those sites found in New Zealand.

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