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Company fined for claim silk socks could prevent COVID-19

A company that claimed its socks could prevent COVID-19 is among five businesses that settled with the Oregon Department of Justice for consumer protection violations related to the pandemic.

Portland-based Live Your Colour was fined $15,000 for claiming that its silk socks could protect against COVID-19, DOJ said.

Plaid Pantry was fined $21,500 and 7-Eleven was fined $12,500 over claims of price-gouging when selling face masks. DOJ began investigating the convenience stores after fielding complaints from customers.

The investigation revealed Plaid Pantry bought masks at a cost of $4.50 per four-pack and sold 9,000 of them between May and June for nearly double the purchase price. DOJ received similar complaints about 7-Eleven stores, the agency said.

Both convenience store chains have agreed to stop charging excessive prices for face masks and comply with Oregon’s price-gouging law, DOJ said in a statement.

“As Oregonians continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, these actions are a reminder that as your AG, I will not tolerate price gouging and other unconscionable trade practices,” said Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum. “Most businesses are following the law. Those that are not should take note — the Oregon Department of Justice will investigate, and we will hold you accountable. The penalties for violations are significant.”

A Bend-based aromatherapy, essential oil and herb business called Sher-Ray claimed that its aromatherapy product Respiratory Remedy could cure or mitigate COVID-19, according to DOJ.

Sher-Ray is no longer making those claims. It was not fined, the DOJ said.

Respiratory Remedy costs $69.98 plus $4.99 shipping for a small bottle containing 200 drops.

After reaching a settlement with DOJ, Sher-Ray continued to claim, “Respiratory Remedy is an extremely powerful recipe that was created to treat illnesses like the flu, colds and pneumonia. Our customers tell us this formula has given them amazing results time and time again to bring individuals up to their best health within as little as 28 hours.”

Some essential oils in vapor form do appear to have antibacterial effects on bacteria common in respiratory tract infections. Cinnamon bark oil, thyme oil, peppermint, citronella oil and eucalyptus oil had effects against bacteria in a 2018 study, but weren’t as effective as antibiotics.

Sher-Ray does not list the ingredients in its Respiratory Remedy.

COVID-19, the flu and colds are caused by viruses. Some people may develop secondary bacterial infections. Pneumonia is an infection that can be caused by organisms that include viruses, bacteria and fungi.

Sher-Ray continues to claim its various products prevent or treat a long list of illnesses — including leprosy, cancer, tuberculosis, hair loss, chickenpox and diabetes.

DOJ said its investigation was focused on enforcing an Oregon law prohibiting sellers and advertisers from making unsubstantiated health claims regarding their products and COVID-19 or a related condition.

“Unsubstantiated health care claims unrelated to COVID-19 are not covered by that rule and were not part of DOJ’s investigation,” said Ellen Klem, director of consumer outreach and investigation for the agency.

In another enforcement action, the Denver- and Boston-based travel company EF Educational Tours faces fines of up to $15,000 if it doesn’t provide appropriate refunds for COVID-19-related trip cancellations.

The company had organized domestic and international educational trips for over 1,500 Oregon high school students and teachers, DOJ said.

Under the terms of an agreement with DOJ, EF Educational Tours agreed to increase the amount of refunds offered to consumers in accordance with Oregon law, which requires businesses to refund prepaid amounts if they don’t provide goods or services and don’t have a good-faith reason for keeping the money.

The settlements are the latest actions taken by DOJ to address the unprecedented number of complaints logged by Oregonians during the pandemic.

At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic in mid-March, the attorney general was granted the authority to investigate price gouging complaints and take appropriate action against businesses that charged excessive prices for essential goods. A price gouging hotline run by the AG’s office received more than 1,000 reports of price gouging, DOJ said.

For information on price gouging and COVID-19 scams, visit www.oregonconsumer.gov/COVID19. Consumers can call the Oregon Attorney General’s Consumer Hotline at 1-877-877-9392.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.

The Portland-based company Live Your Colour was fined $15,000 for claiming its silk socks could prevent COVID-19.