The Federal Trade Commission today announced that it has amended its 1973 Enforcement Policy Statement (Policy Statement) concerning requirements for clear and conspicuous disclosures in foreign language advertising and sales materials. By amending this Policy Statement, the Commission is clarifying its original intent that disclosures be translated into the language of the audience to which an advertisement is targeted. The revised Policy Statement will appear in the June 26, 1998 Federal Register and will become effective immediately.
In 1973, the FTC issued the Enforcement Policy Statement to address the issue of disclosures, such as the Surgeon General’s warnings, in foreign language advertising. Part (a) of the Policy Statement said: "Where cease-and-desist orders as well as rules, guides and other statements require 'clear and conspicuous' disclosure of certain information, that disclosure must be in the same language as that principally used in the advertisements and sales material involved." The FTC received complaints from non-English speaking communities that certain advertisements appearing in foreign language publications contained disclosures which appeared only in English. Upon review, the FTC found that some companies had interpreted the Policy Statement to mean that if the number of English words in an advertisement exceeded the number of foreign language words, the disclosure need never be translated, regardless of the target audience. This interpretation subverted the original intent of the Policy Statement that important disclosures be translated in advertisements directed to non-English speaking consumers. For this reason, the Commission amended the wording of the Policy Statement.
In 1986, the Commission issued its Regulations Under the Comprehensive Smokeless Tobacco Health Education Act of 1986, addressing the language in which the Surgeon General's health warning was to appear in ads for smokeless tobacco products. While the 1973 Policy Statement focused on the principal language of the advertisement, the smokeless tobacco regulation focused on the predominant language of the publication in determining how the language of the Surgeon General's health warning was to appear. The Commission believes that language similar to that included in the smokeless tobacco regulation would better ensure that companies comply with the original intent of the 1973 Policy Statement. Therefore, the amended Policy Statement now states that:
(a) Where cease-and-desist orders as well as rules, guides and other statements require "clear and conspicuous" disclosure of certain information in an advertisement or sales material in a newspaper, magazine, periodical, or other publication that is not in English, the disclosure shall appear in the predominant language of the publication in which the advertisement or sales material appears. In the case of any other advertisement or sales material, the disclosure shall appear in the language of the target audience (ordinarily the language principally used in the advertisement or sales material).
By making this amendment, the FTC is clarifying the original intent of the 1973 Enforcement Policy Statement -- that all American consumers, regardless of the language they speak, have access to important information regarding the products they purchase.
The Commission vote to amend the 1973 Enforcement Policy Statement and publish the revised Federal Register notice announcing the amendment was 4-0.
Copies of the Federal Register notice are available from the FTC’s web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-FTC-HELP (202-382-4357); TDD 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.