In continuing efforts to protect residents from scams and price-gouging related to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office on Wednesday contacted two related businesses demanding they stop marketing and selling fake at-home COVID-19 test kits to Michigan consumers.
The Attorney General’s letter was sent to VitaStik Inc. and $tronghold Inc. – both registered in Las Vegas, Nevada, but operating in Beverly Hills, California – after a concerned Michigan consumer reported the businesses’ website promoting at-home COVID-19 test kits. The kits were marketed at $25 each and described as being 96.3 percent accurate, with results available in 15 minutes.
No such kits have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has warned consumers that all such promotions are scams.
A special agent from the Attorney General’s office contacted the business owner who said the test kits were going through approval processes with the FDA. When following up on those claims, the agent found them to be false as no one at the FDA had knowledge of the business owner or the kits.
Based on that, the Attorney General’s office believes the businesses to be in violation of the Michigan Consumer Protection Act and demanded they stop selling the phony kits to Michigan consumers and provide refunds to any consumer who may have already purchased some. Federal authorities may take further enforcement action. The company responded by saying it will comply with the office’s request.
“During public emergencies, it’s common for scams to become more prevalent and consumers must be cautious,” Nessel said. “I appreciate the consumer reports that continue to be filed with my office, and my Consumer Protection team and I will keep fighting to ensure hard-working, honest people are protected from scammers and price-gougers.”
The number of COVID-19-related price-gouging complaints filed with the Attorney General’s office as of 7 a.m. today was at 2,806. That includes 1,367 complaints filed online through the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection website, and 1,439 complaints taken by phone.
Consumers can file a complaint online or by calling the Consumer Protection tip line, 877-765-8388. Hours of operation are between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The Attorney General’s office has received reports from business owners who have been subjects of the office’s efforts to rein in price-gouging. Those business owners have been receiving threats from members of the public.
Price-gouging is a civil violation under the Michigan Consumer Protection Act. The Attorney General’s office finds residents who call out price-gouging on social media helpful, as are those who tell the office about it. But responding to price-gouging by threatening violence is a crime. It will not be tolerated, and it can be prosecuted.