In a comment submitted today to the Department of the Treasury’s United States Mint, the staff of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, Bureau of Economics, and Office of Policy Planning gave its support to the Mint’s efforts to protect consumers and curb unscrupulous marketers who deceptively advertise collectible coins and medals.
The staff supported a proposed rule to assess civil penalties against deceptive marketers who misuse words and symbols related to the U.S. Mint. The staff comment described the Federal Trade Commission’s experience with advertising law and how this experience may assist the Mint in implementing the rule and determining whether advertisements create a false impression of association with the Mint.
The staff comment briefly outlined First Amendment commercial speech doctrine and its preference for disclosure over banning potentially misleading claims as a means of combating deception. The comment next presented the FTC’s approach to reviewing advertising claims, explaining the Commission’s emphasis on considering the “net impression” of the ads. The FTC’s approach considers the context of such an advertising claim, including any qualification to the claim, which is consistent with the First Amendment principles intended to promote the free flow of truthful and non-misleading commercial speech. The comment also noted the FTC’s support for conducting consumer research on the language and format of various disclaimers to determine whether they are effective in preventing deception.
In concluding its comment, the staff wrote, “We wholeheartedly support the Mint’s efforts to combat deceptive advertising for collectible and commemorative coins and related products and services. The FTC staff hopes that our experience in policing advertising claims may assist the Mint in implementing its proposed rule. In executing our mission, we have found that the First Amendment commercial speech doctrine is fully compatible with our vigorous consumer protection program.”
The FTC staff comments are in response to the request for public comment in the U.S. Mint’s notice of proposed rulemaking on the assessment of civil penalties for misuse of words, letters, symbols, and emblems of the U.S. Mint, published in the Federal Register on January 12, 2005.
The Commission vote authorizing the staff to submit the comments to the U.S. Mint was 5-0. Copies of the comment can be found on the FTC’s Web site as a link to this press release.
Copies of the documents mentioned in this release are available from the FTC’s Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20580. Call toll-free: 1-877-FTC-HELP. The comments represent the views of the staff in the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, Bureau of Economics, and Office of Policy Planning and not those of the FTC or any individual commissioner.
Maureen K. Ohlhausen,
Office of Policy Planning
Bureau of Consumer Protection