Ads that claimed an add-on motor vehicle braking system were antilock braking systems (ABS) that protect against wheel lock-up were deceptive and misleading, according to Federal Trade Commission Administrative Law Judge Lewis F. Parker. Judge Parker’s decision upholds FTC charges against the manufacturer of the add-on devices they promoted as genuine ABS systems, when in fact, the company’s products are substantially different in design and operation from true factory-installed ABS equipment and do not prevent or substantially reduce wheel lock-up and the resulting skidding that can occur during emergency stops. The charges were made in an FTC administrative complaint seeking an order to halt the deceptive claims used to market the retrofitted braking systems.
BST Enterprises, Inc., maker of ABS BrakeSafe Equipment and its president Michael Woodruff, were cited in Judge Parker’s default judgement.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the automobile industry define ABS as a system that automatically controls the degree of rotational wheel slip during braking. Currently, manufacturer-installed ABS employ electronic sensors at the wheels that detect wheel slip, or lock-up, and automatically adjust brake pressure as needed to alleviate it. According to the FTC complaint, the add-on systems at issue do not meet the NHTSA standards.
According to the FTC complaint BST falsely represented that their retrofit brakes are anti-lock braking systems that perform as well as ABS during emergency stops, comply with ABS standards, and entitle a consumer to ABS insurance discounts.
Judge Parker’s order will bar BST and Woodruff from using the term ABS in connection with their retrofitted brakes. In addition they will be barred from representing that their brakes:
- are an antilock braking system;
- will qualify a vehicle for an automobile insurance discount in a significant proportion of cases;
- prevent or reduce wheel lock-up, skidding or loss of steering control;
- comply with performance standards set by the Society of Automotive Engineers or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration;
- have been proven in tests to reduce stopping distances by at least 20% when the vehicle’s brakes are applied at a speed of 60 mph; or
- provide antilock benefits equivalent to those provided by genuine ABS systems.
Judge Parker’s order would also prohibit safety claims, unless, at the time of the representations Woodruff possesses and relies upon competent and reliable scientific evidence. The order also would bar misrepresentations about tests or studies and the misleading use of endorsements.
Judge Parker’s order is subject to review by the full Commission either on the Commission’s own motion or on appeal by the respondents. If not appealed within 30 days, it would become the Commission’s decision and order and would be effective 60 days after it is served on the respondents.
Copies of the initial decision and order, the partial summary decision and other documents associated with this case, are available from the FTC’s Public Reference Branch, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-326-2222; TTY for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710. FTC news releases and other materials also are available on the Internet at the FTC’s World Wide Web site at: http://www.ftc.gov
Claudia Bourne Farrell,
Office of Public Affairs
(FTC Docket No. 9276)