The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Bureau of Consumer Protection is where the action is when it comes to identifying current and future trends related to consumer protection. Bureau actions are closely watched to identify enforcement priorities and issuance of key guidance on how the FTC contemplates exercising its authority in key areas, such as social media. Actions the FTC takes, or elects not to take, provide critical information to marketers committed to legal compliance in a way that does not hamper appropriate business objectives. The primary protector of consumers against fraud, deceptive advertising, and other practices that prey on unsuspecting consumers has recently updated its previous guidance on the use of endorsements and has taken enforcement action related to endorsements and several other focus areas. This article touches on a range of topics and is intended as a quick reference guide to recent developments with an eye on what lies ahead.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has released the final revisions to its “Green Guides,” which constitute the Commission’s guidance for making claims about the environmental benefits of a product in a manner that is not deceptive under Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act. The final revised Green Guides largely reflect the revisions the FTC posed in 2010, with some changes. The Green Guides were last updated in 1998, and, while the Commission has indicated it would consider reviewing discrete aspects of the guides if provided new information, it does not intend to conduct another full-scale review for another ten years. As guidance, the Green Guides reflect the “Commission’s current views about environmental claims” but do not reflect legal requirements or bind the Commission. They likely reflect, however, how the FTC would view a particular marketing claim in most situations, and the Commission notes recent enforcement actions based on environmental marketing claims in its discussion. The Green Guides will also likely inform state authorities and the class action bar in considering whether claims are reasonably considered deceptive.
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