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August 8th, 2013
FTC Bars Mattress Companies from Making Unsupported Green Claims
In separate settlements with the FTC, three mattress manufacturers recently agreed to stop making alleged unsupported green claims, including that their mattresses do not contain harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The FTC charged that Relief-Mart, Inc., Essentia Natural Memory Foam Company, Inc., and Ecobaby Organics, Inc. did not have competent and reliable scientific evidence to prove that their mattresses did not contain VOCs, carbon-causing compounds that easily evaporate at room temperature and can be harmful to human health and the environment.
The FTC's Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims (the "Green Guides") say that marketers may generally make "free-of" claims for products that contain trace amounts of a substance, so long as the substance was not intentionally added to the product and the amount of the substance present does not cause the harm that consumers typically associate with the substance.
The FTC also challenged one company's claim that its mattresses were made from 100 percent natural materials. Notably, the FTC's Green Guides do not address "natural" claims. Below is a summary of the FTC's allegations:
- Relief-Mart, Inc.: The FTC alleged that Relief-Mart did not have substantiation for its claims that its Biogreen memory foam mattresses do not contain VOCs, have no VOC off-gassing, and lack common odors typically associated with memory foam. As with the other two settlement orders, the proposed settlement gives FTC the right for five years to audit the company's advertising records for similar representations.
- Essentia Natural Memory Foam Company, Inc.: The FTC alleged that Essentia did not have support for its claims that its mattresses are free of VOCs, are chemical-free and have no chemical off-gassing or odor, do not contain formaldehyde or emit chemical fumes, and are made from 100% natural materials. Among other obligations, the proposed settlement prohibits Essentia from falsely implying that its products offer environmental benefits.
- Ecobaby Organics, Inc.: The FTC complaint alleged that Ecobaby made unsubstantiated claims that its latex mattresses are VOC- and chemical-free, formaldehyde-free, and free of toxic substances. The FTC further alleged that Ecobaby falsely implied its mattresses were certified by an independent third-party certifier when the certifying entity was actually controlled by the company and did not apply objective standards.
The proposed settlement can be found here.
Marketers making VOC-related claims should be aware that the FTC has recently paid significant attention to these claims. In fact, earlier this year, the FTC issued an enforcement policy statement regarding making VOC -free claims for architectural coatings.
The proposed settlements are currently open for public comment through August 26, 2013.
For more information about green claims or other advertising or marketing law issues, please contact Jeffrey Greenbaum at (212) 826 5525 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Claudine Wilson at (212) 705 4842 or email@example.com, or any other member of the Frankfurt Kurnit Advertising Group.
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