LOS ANGELES – Continuing to tackle false claims by companies and price gouging tied to the COVID-19 crisis, City Attorney Mike Feuer today announced that his office has resolved a lawsuit he filed against RootMD, Inc., for advertising and selling an at-home exposure and immunity test kit for the virus not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As a result, the Court approved a signed stipulation in which RootMD, Inc. agrees to end its alleged widespread marketing and sales campaign of at-home test kits, accept responsibility by paying civil penalties, and provide restitution in the form of full refunds to consumers who purchased the test kits at home use.
“With all the emphasis on the importance for increased testing for COVID-19, companies selling non-approved at-home test kits build false hopes, confusion and anxiety,” said Feuer. “In this crisis, Angelenos’ health depends on accurate, reliable information and legitimate products that can actually help them.”
The defendant RootMD, Inc., is a California Corporation. Our investigation revealed that the defendant allegedly marketed “at-home” COVID-19 exposure and immunity test kits on their website, “RootMD.com.” The website allegedly advertised and sold the kits for $249. The defendants claimed that consumers can use their testing kit to “[c] heck Blood Testing [o]n [y]our [t]erms” and that they were “the first to offer at-home collection for this testing allowing all who order the test to easily collect and ship their sample in the convenience and safety of their home.” RootMD also allegedly falsely claimed that their test was allowed under FDA guidelines.
Last week the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the first diagnostic test with a home collection option for COVID-19, which will still require authorization from a healthcare provider and a lab to administer the results. Neither of the two companies the City Attorney’s Office has taken action against have such approval from the FDA.
This stipulated judgment protects public health by:
immediately ending advertising, marketing, and sales of the “COVID-19 At-Home Exposure and Immunity Test Kit” and other violations of law; and
providing for full consumer restitution, in the form of refunds, for all test kit purchases used at home.
The company will also pay civil penalties. Under the stipulated judgment, RootMD may only sell COVID-19 exposure and immunity test kits for in-home use in California if the test kits receive FDA approval and RootMD complies with all applicable rules and regulations governing the sale of medical devices in California.
Feuer also announced that an additional 21 nonessential businesses have been criminally charged for violating Mayor Garcetti’s Safer at Home Order. In total, 49 businesses in total have been charged.
In a separate but related matter, City Attorney Feuer announced that for the third time, the office has successfully defended the Mayor’s Safer at Home order against a gun store. The Order deems gun stores non-essential.
The City and County of Los Angeles are offering free tests to eligible Angelenos. To find out about eligibility, and register, please visit: lacovidprod.service-now.com/rrs
The City Attorney’s Consumer Protection Team has been reviewing other COVID-19 related scams and working to get voluntary compliance to stop the practices. In the past three weeks, the City Attorney’s Office has successfully halted alleged false advertising and unfair business practices related to the COVID-19 pandemic through the issuance of cease and desist letters to a number of individuals and entities. In addition to working to stop the sale of unapproved medical devices, including at-home COVID-19 tests that have not yet received FDA authorization, the Office has targeted suspected price gouging of essential consumer goods (including masks, hand sanitizer, and cleaning supplies), and products advertised through misleading or unsubstantiated claims about preventing or treating COVID-19.
Supervising Deputy City Attorney Christina Tusan, Deputy City Attorneys William Pletcher, Miguel Ruiz, and Rebecca Morse, all of the Consumer and Workplace Protection Unit, litigated this matter for the City Attorney’s Office.
Consumers can report to the City Attorney instances of COVID-19 scams or price gouging can go to www.lacityattorney.org/covid19 or call 213-978-8070.
Read the complaint against RootMD.
Read the settlement with RootMD.