Ashland, Inc. has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that ads for the Valvoline Company's Teflon-containing TM8 Engine Treatment product were false and unsubstantiated. Valvoline is an unincorporated division of Ashland. The terms of the settlement will bar Ashland from making unsubstantiated claims about the performance or attributes of any engine treatment in the future and from misrepresenting tests or studies used to support its claims.
This is the latest in a series of FTC cases involving unsubstantiated or false claims for automotive additives and high octane fuels.
Ashland is a Fortune 500 company with 1996 revenues of $13.1 billion. It markets automotive products under the brand names Valvoline, Pyroil and Zerex. Ashland is based in Russell, Kentucky.
According to the complaint detailing the charges, ads for TM8 Engine Treatment made claims such as:
"TM8 is a blend of eight scientifically formulated components -- including Dupont's TEFLON fluoroadditive-- that chemically bond to engine surfaces, reducing engine friction and wear";
"TM8's 8 friction-fighting ingredients chemically bond to moving parts, protecting your engine even at start-up. In fact, under high operating temperatures, motor oil treated with TM8 offers twice the protection";
"REDUCE WEAR BY UP TO 75%. TM8 protects engines during "Stop and Go" driving."
Through the use of such claims in ads that ran on radio and TV, magazines, leaflets and on an Internet site, Valvoline represented that TM8 bonds Teflon to engine parts; that compared to motor oil alone, it reduces engine wear; that it reduces wear on some engine parts by up to 75 percent; that it provides twice as much engine wear protection under high temperature conditions; that it extends engine life; that it improves fuel economy; and that one treatment lasts for 50,000 miles.
In addition, according to the complaint, some ads claimed that "testing" demonstrated that compared to motor oil alone, TM8 reduces wear on engine parts by up to 75%, provides twice the wear protection under high temperature conditions, and improves fuel economy.
In fact, according to the complaint, Ashland did not possess and rely upon a reasonable basis to make the ad claims, so they were unsubstantiated. In addition, tests do not prove that, compared to motor oil alone, TM8 reduces wear on engine parts by up to 75%, provides twice the wear protection under high temperature conditions, and improves fuel economy. Therefore, the "testing" claims are false and misleading.
The agreement to settle the charges would prohibit Ashland from making any claims about the performance or attributes of any engine treatment unless it possesses and relies upon competent and reliable evidence to support the claims. It also bars misrepresentations of the results of any tests or studies.
The order also contains standard record-keeping provisions to allow the Commission to monitor compliance.
The Commission vote to approve the proposed consent agreement was 4-0. A summary of the agreement will be published in the Federal Register shortly and will be subject to public comment for 60 days, after which the Commission will decide whether to make it final. Comments should be addressed to the FTC, Office of the Secretary, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580.
NOTE: A consent agreement is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission of a law violation. When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of $11,000.
Copies of the complaint, consent and an analysis to aid public comment and a free FTC consumer education brochure are available on the Internet at the FTC's World Wide Web site at: http://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 File No. 962 3072)