“Mosquito Shield Band” Maker Must Pay $300K, Stop Claiming It Protects Against Bites

With the Zika virus spreading across tropical regions of South and North America, consumers are likely looking for ways to ensure they aren’t bitten by disease-carrying mosquitos as summer approaches. But there’s one option they should stay away from: so-called mosquito shield bands. 

A year after federal regulators determined the bands from Viatek Consumer Products Group — which supposedly used mint oil to create a 5-foot mosquito-free zone — don’t actually work as they’re advertised, the company has been ordered to pay a $300,000 fine and stop marketing the products.

Viatek, along with company owner and president Lou Lentine, agreed this week to settle charges the company made deceptive claims in order to sell the mosquito shield bands.

According to the FTC’s complaint [PDF] filed against the company in Feb. 2015, Lentine and Viatek marketed Mosquito Shield Bands, wristbands containing mint oil, directly to consumers and through retailers, including the home shopping channel HSN, Walmart, and Home Depot, claiming the wristbands would protect users from being bitten by mosquitos.

The bands, which can still be purchased at retailers, were marketed as being able to create a “vapor barrier” that shields persons within five feet of the product from being bitten and provides users with 96-120 hours of protection.

The FTC alleged that the company did not have competent and reliable scientific evident to back up these claims.

“Defendants do not possess, and did not possess at the time they made the representations, competent and reliable scientific evidence to substantiate” what they claimed in advertisements the bands were able to do, the FTC wrote in its complaint.

In addition to taking on the company’s marketing of its mosquito shield bands, the FTC claims that Viatek and Lentine of violating a 2003 order [PDF] that prohibited the owner from marketing product claims without proper evidence.

Back in 2003, a predecessor company of Viatek was found to have marketed a different pest control device by making inaccurate claims in its advertising.

Under the FTC’s proposed order [PDF] settling the case, Viatek and Lentine agree to have competent and reliable scientific evidence for future claims about the benefits, performance, or efficacy of any pest control product, and to have appropriate substantiation for similar claims made about any product they sell.

They are also prohibited from violating the 2003 order and must pay $300,000 to the Commission.

“With Zika virus and other mosquito-borne illnesses in the news, consumers might be looking for products that protect them from mosquitos,” Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. “The defendants took advantage of those concerns, and peddled a product without having scientific support that it effectively prevented mosquito bites.”

If you are preparing for an evening in the great outdoors free of mosquitos, our colleagues at Consumer Reports put together a list of options.  

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