National Environmental Guides Working Well for Businesses, Consumers

For Release

The Federal Trade Commission’s Environmental Marketing Guidelines have worked well in providing national guidance to help reduce consumer confusion about environmental claims in advertising and preventing the false or misleading use of terms such as "recyclable," "degradable" and "environmentally friendly," said Jodie Bernstein, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, in conjunction with replying to a letter from a member of the California Assembly yesterday. In fact, according to a 1995 study by the University of Utah, both the number and quality of environmental claims increased between 1992 (when the FTC issued its guides) and 1994. In addition, Bernstein said, it appeared that the most egregious, deceptive claims had disappeared and that the total number of deceptive claims had been reduced.

Several states including California, New York and Rhode Island, have repealed or modified their pre-existing laws to make them consistent with the FTC guides, and the FTC has closely cooperated with state Attorneys General in bringing law enforcement cases against firms engaged in allegedly deceptive environmental advertising, the letter states. Bernstein’s letter responded to a request from Assemblymember Michael J. Machado for her opinion of the effectiveness of the FTC Environmental Guides, in connection with the Assembly’s consideration of a proposed environmental labeling bill.

The FTC staff noted that the Commission’s recent review of the guides elicited a general consensus among commenters that the guides benefit both consumers and industry. The staff added that many industry members commented generally on the difficulties that differing state standards for environmental marketing claims can pose to marketers, and many "voiced strong opposition to changing the guides in any way that would undermine the important state support the guides are now receiving."

"In short, we believe the Commission has established a consistent approach to environmental marketing regulation that has resulted in substantial benefits for consumers and businesses alike," Bernstein’s letter states.

The views expressed in Bernstein’s letter are those of the staff of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, and not necessarily those of the Commission or any individual Commissioner.

Copies of the staff’s comments, as well as the FTC’s Environmental Guides, are available from the FTC’s web site at www.ftc.gov and also 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 Matter No. V970003)

Contact Information

Media Contact:
Bonnie Jansen
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2161 or 202-326-2180
Staff Contact:
Bureau of Consumer Protection
Mary K. Engle, 202-326-3161
Michael Dershowitz, 202-326-3158