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November 4th, 2014
With Warning Letters, FTC Continues to Aggressively Police Environmental Marketing Claims
As part of its continuing efforts to combat deceptive environmental marketing claims, the Federal Trade Commission ("FTC") recently sent warning letters to 15 plastic bag advertisers cautioning them that their "oxodegradable," "oxo biodegradable," and "biodegradable" claims may be deceptive. According to the FTC, oxodegradable plastic is made with an additive that is intended to cause plastic bags to degrade in the presence of oxygen. The FTC warned that because most plastic bags are disposed of in landfills, the oxodegradable bags will not likely be exposed to enough oxygen to allow them to degrade any faster than ordinary plastic bags. The FTC warned that the advertising is misleading, then, because the bags will not degrade in the amount of time that consumers expect.
In the FTC's 2012 revision to its Guides For the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims, the FTC advised marketers that unqualified "degradable" (and similar) claims for items that are usually disposed in landfills, incinerators, or recycling facilities are deceptive because those locations don't offer conditions where decomposition can occur within one year.
The FTC asked the warning letter recipients to respond to the FTC by October 21, 2014 to report whether they planned to remove the degradable claims from their marketing or whether they possessed competent and reliable scientific evidence proving that their products can biodegrade as advertised. The FTC has not disclosed the names of the companies that received the letters.
These warning letters come on the heels of other recent enforcement efforts by the FTC in the green space. (See, e.g., In the Matter of Engineered Plastic Systems, LLC (2014); In the Matter of American Plastic Lumber, Inc.; In the Matter of Down to Earth Designs, Inc d/b/a gDiapers; In the Matter of N.E.W. Plastics Corp., a corporation, doing business as Renew Plastics. See also here). The FTC also pointed out that its focus on oxodegradable claims is not finished, and that any company making these claims in the marketplace should review its advertising and ensure legal compliance. As Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection said, "Claims that products are environmentally friendly influence buyers, so it's important they be accurate."
For more information about "oxodegradable" or other green claims, or about other advertising or marketing law issues, please contact Jeffrey Greenbaum at (212) 826-5525 or firstname.lastname@example.org, Hannah Taylor at (212) 705 4849 or email@example.com, or any other member of the Frankfurt Kurnit Advertising Group.
Other Advertising Law Alerts
New Low-Budget Waiver is Now Available for Digital Commercial Productions
Advertisers and agencies that are signatories to the SAG-AFTRA Commercials Contract can now take advantage of a new waiver issued by SAG-AFTRA and the Joint Policy Committee on Broadcast Talent Union Relations when producing low-budget digital commercials.
November 10 2017
FTC Updates Endorsement Guide FAQs and Settles First-Ever Action Against Individual “Influencers”
Recent developments demonstrate the FTC's continued interest in social media endorsements.
September 11 2017
FTC Announces Reforms to Its Investigative Process
Recently, the FTC announced a set of internal reforms intended to improve the process by which the Commission investigates unfair, deceptive and fraudulent business practices. The reforms relate to the Civil Investigative Demands ("CID") that the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection issues to request information from investigation targets.
September 7 2017