United States of America
Federal Trade Commission
Washington D.C. 20580
VIA E-MAIL & CERTIFIED U.S. MAIL
RETURN RECEIPT REQUESTED
Your website claims that your automotive product increases gas mileage and lowers fuel costs. This letter provides you with information regarding the Federal Trade Commission Act ("FTC Act"), 15 U.S.C. § 41 et seq., which prohibits deceptive marketing practices, including false and unsubstantiated advertising. Gas-savings and related claims that are not supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence may violate the FTC Act.
Over the years, the FTC has taken law enforcement action against numerous sellers who misrepresented the benefits of purported fuel-saving products, from gas-line magnets to engine treatments. We have not yet determined whether your advertising violates the FTC Act. We have, however, copied and preserved your online advertising because it contains specific gas-savings claims. If your website misrepresents the benefits of your product, makes claims that lack credible scientific substantiation, or is otherwise deceptive or fraudulent, you should stop making those claims or revise them appropriately right away. Otherwise, you may be subject to legal action that could require you to stop your advertising and to pay money back to consumers.
In evaluating your advertising, please consider the following:
- Gas-Savings Claims Must Be Backed By Scientific Evidence. Any direct or implied claim about the efficiency, gas savings, fuel consumption, emission reduction, operation cost, cost recovery, or "payback,"of a fuel-saving product must be substantiated by competent and reliable scientific evidence, such as testing, before the claim is made. A "competent and reliable scientific test" is a test in which persons qualified by professional training, education and experience formulate and conduct the test and evaluate its results in an objective manner using procedures that are generally accepted by such professionals to attain valid and reliable results.
- Distributors/Catalogers Have a Duty to Ensure the Manufacturer Has Credible Substantiation. Before you repeat an energy-related claim made by a third-party manufacturer, you must determine that the manufacturer possesses competent and reliable scientific evidence substantiating the representation. If the "proof" isn't plausible or looks questionable, you should proceed cautiously. Stick to ad copy that can be supported. If you embellish the manufacturer's representations or make your own claim, you are responsible for having competent and reliable scientific evidence to back up your claim.
- Disclosures Must Be Conspicuous. When you make a disclosure to avoid deception, it must be clear and understandable, and be made prominently and in close proximity to the claim it modifies. A disclosure cannot remedy a false claim.
- Use Care When Making "Up to" Claims. In substantiating maximum or "up to..." claims (e.g., "save up to 40%"), you should not rely on an unusual or "outlier" test result. The advertised result should be one that the average consumer can reasonably expect to achieve.
- References to Tests or Standards Must Be Accurate. If your advertising refers to any product testing or to any review or approval by a government or other organization, the representation must be true and must not misrepresent the purpose, content or conclusion of the test, review or approval. Similarly, if you claim that your product meets certain government or industry specifications or requirements, the claim must be true and may not misrepresent the purpose or content of such specifications or requirements.
- Exercise Care in Using Testimonials or "Case Studies." Consumer testimonials or case studies can never be used to make a claim that the advertiser itself cannot substantiate. A statement that not all consumers will get the same results is not a legally acceptable substitute for substantiating your product claims.
We have enclosed by U.S. mail consumer education brochures and press releases concerning some recent FTC fuel-saving cases. These explain some of our concerns about deceptive advertising for fuel-saving products.
The FTC is the U.S. government agency responsible for enforcing a number of federal consumer protection laws, including the FTC Act. You can obtain further information about the FTC by visiting http://www.ftc.gov. If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Mr. Joel N. Brewer at (202) 326-2967 or email@example.com.
Elaine D. Kolish
Associate Director for Enforcement