European Consumer Centre

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The risks of self-purchases of medical products

The question recently addressed by the Czech government leaders and the professional public, i.e. whether to start using an as yet uncertified and unapproved vaccine or alleged covid-19 medicines in Europe, must also be addressed on a daily basis by ordinary Czech consumers. It is advisable to be careful and not to rush into purchases of supposedly “miracle” medicines or medical devices as well as face masks and respirators offered in a nice-looking advertisement, accompanied by the alleged recommendation of a man or woman in a white coat. Such advertisements can be often found on the internet and in printed magazines. A lot of people have already been duped.

Uncertified or unapproved preparations may have their risks. If not medical, then definitely financial. This is illustrated by cases encountered by the European Consumer Centre (ECC) and other consumer organisations – consumers often lose thousands of crowns, which unfair sellers do not want to send back after subsequent withdrawal from the contract.

For a year now, there have been cases of frauds with disinfection gels when buying online from unverified sellers (the consumer receives only scented water) as well as respirators and face masks (they are of poor quality or provide no protection at all). Other times, the consumer receives nothing. Similar practices can now be expected from unfair sellers also in the area of selling self-tests for the presence of coronavirus in the body.

Before the purchase, it is necessary to find out who the seller is, how long the e-shop has been operational and what is the experience of other byuers. You shall read the general terms and conditions of the seller and use internet search engines to find out about reviews. In general, people can use the procedure available on the ESC to verify the seller.

Advertisements continue to appear in print media, attracting purchases of e.g. thumb straighteners, magnetic shoe inserts, ear oils and supposedly army glasses to improve eyesight. Advertisements normally include only a telephone number for orders and no information about the seller, a website for further information and so on. Doctors depicted and quoted in advertisements are often not real. Although the goods come from a warehouse in the Czech Republic, the seller may be based in another EU country or outside the Union. The package delivered with the goods does not contain either an invoice or terms and conditions.

It is common for the consumer to send the withdrawal from the contract with the product to the address of the sender indicated on the original shipment. But the package often returns as nondelivered. The customer service does not offer adequate support, or on request it sends information about filing a complaint, where three different addresses in three different countries may also be listed for sending the goods. The consumer usually loses thousands of crowns.

Therefore, it is strongly recommended to look for reviews of various medical devices and products in internet discussions before the purchase and, last but not least, to consult their physician.

This article was published in the journal dTest 4/2021.