News: During the pandemic, Google blocked businesses from selling N95 respirators on their shopping and advertising platforms.
The goal was to protect consumers from counterfeiting and price cuts, and to give healthcare professionals ample access to the high-quality masks that were lacking for most of 2020.
Other technology companies are taking similar steps. Facebook has temporarily banned advertising for medical masks such as the N95.
During the summer, some mask makers complained that the policy was inconsistent with health guidance and sales declined.
Last week, Google reversed the course, allowing authorized sellers to promote the N95 through Google Shopping and advertising in the United States. Outside the United States, Google only allows a list of approved N95 adjacency masks such as KN95.
A Google spokeswoman said in an email that this would allow users to find more types of masks to meet their needs and continue to protect them from counterfeit products.
Details: In the United States, mask sellers are approved by Project N95, a non-profit information center that has been scrutinizing personal protective equipment for healthcare providers since 2020. Digital compliance company LegitScript approves non-US listings.
Brian Wolin, CEO of mask maker Protective Health Gear, said his product was inspected by Project N95 last fall and the company’s products were automatically displayed online.
Companies that have not yet been approved can apply online. The application requires product specifications, regulatory approval documents, and product photos.
Rationale: According to a Google spokeswoman, the decision to block the sale of masks and the decision to reverse the course were driven by guidance from public health organizations.
However, some of those healthcare providers have begun to inform that healthcare providers have a sufficient supply of masks a few months ago.
In May, the CDC showed a significant increase in the supply of N95 masks and instructed hospitals to stop using critical capacity strategies. In July, the Department of Health and Human Services removed the N95 respiratory and surgical masks from the list of missing resources.
Google did not answer the question about the timing of the decision.
Impact: Brent Dillie, a partner of PPE makers and founder of the American Mask Manufacturers Association, said Google’s ban on mask ads hurt small makers that are part of his organization.
It was very frustrating, especially when the market began to slow down, he told Freight Waves. There was no shortage. Many members were still really dissatisfied with having problems accessing this system.
In the first half of 2021, many healthcare providers stocked up masks as the number of COVID-19 cases in the United States declined and the supply of PPE stabilized.
Mr. Warin said it made it difficult to sell large numbers of masks to hospitals. Instead, he wanted to sell N95 masks to consumers for everyday use.
Google’s policy was a big barrier, but he hopes this change will be easier to reach those customers. In fact, Wolin welcomes the new review process. We believe this will help eradicate fraud and make it easier for customers to navigate the market.
People are not vaccinated, and there are varieties that are breaking through, he told Freight Waves. We would like to be able to supply N95 to the general public and hospitals.
US mask demand fell at the end of spring, when the number of cases reached a record low. Warin said demand, including hospitals, increased significantly as delta variants pushed up new cases.
A Google spokeswoman said the risk of delta variants was another reason the company changed course.
What’s next? A Google spokeswoman said he would continue to test the process to prevent price spikes and fraud while expanding consumer options.
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