FOR RELEASE: APRIL 15, 1993
HASBRO AND AD AGENCY GRIFFIN BACAL TO SETTLE FTC CHARGES OF FALSELY REPRESENTING TOY PERFORMANCE
Hasbro, Inc. and advertising agency Griffin Bacal, Inc. have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they false- ly represented the performance of certain toys in Hasbro's "G.I. Joe" line. The allegations against Hasbro stem both from a tele- vision commercial allegedly containing an altered demonstration of a toy helicopter -- making it seem as if the toy can "hover and fly in a sustained and directed manner," when it cannot -- and from an action figure toy package featuring a photograph allegedly touched up with paint to misrepresent the "battle damage" color change that occurs when the toy gets wet. The Griffin Bacal alle- gations stem from its role in producing the television commercial for the helicopter.
Both companies have agreed not to engage in the kind of deceptive toy promotion alleged by the FTC in the future. In addition, Hasbro has agreed to pay a $175,000 civil penalty to settle charges that it misrepresented the performance of these toys with knowledge that the Commission previously had determined that such conduct was unfair or deceptive, and unlawful.
Hasbro is based in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, and Griffin Bacal is a New York City agency.
According to the complaints detailing the FTC allegations, both Hasbro and Griffin Bacal engaged in law violations in con- nection with a demonstration used in a 1991 television commercial for the "Battle Copter." The Battle Copter is a plastic tail piece with a propeller mounted on top. It comes with handgrip that, when pulled, is designed to rotate the propeller so that the copter lifts up, hovers and flies.
- more - Hasbro/Griffin Bacal--04/15/93)
The FTC alleged that scenes in the commercial appeared to be unaltered demonstrations that accurately show the Battle Copters hovering and flying. According to the complaints, however, the copters used to film the commercial had been suspended on wires attached to poles that were manually controlled, and battery- operated motors had been installed to spin the toys' rotors. According to the complaints, the commercial made it appear as if the Battle Copters can "hover and fly in a sustained and directed manner," when they cannot. The FTC also cited as deceptive Hasbro's statements on the toy's package referring to its ability to hover and fly.
The FTC also charged Hasbro in connection with a photograph appearing on packaging for one of the company's "Eco-Warriors" miniature action figures, which allegedly had been painted over in part. The FTC alleged that the touched-up photograph depicted a large patch of bright yellow color on the "Toxo-Viper" figure, making it appear as if the "battle-damage" color change the toy experiences when squirted with or dipped in water is significantly different in color and larger than it really is.
Under the proposed consent agreements to settle these allega- tions, announced today for public comment, Hasbro and Griffin Bacal would be prohibited from misrepresenting any performance characteristic of any toy they manufacture or promote. In addi- tion, in connection with any demonstrations or tests they use in advertising or packaging for toys, Hasbro and Griffin Bacal would be prohibited from falsely representing that the demonstration or test proves or confirms any material feature of the toy. For instance, the settlements would prohibit such representations when the demonstration or test:
-- uses or substitutes a material mock-up or prop not disclosed to the consumer;
-- alters a material characteristic of the toy or any material prop or device, and that is not disclosed to the consumer; or
-- uses a visual perspective or camera or audio technique that is not disclosed to the consumer,
if, in the context of the entire ad, the use of the demonstration or test materially misrepresents an important characteristic of the toy or the demonstration. Therefore, the orders would not prohibit the use of such devices and techniques when they are not deceptive.
These settlements would not preclude the use of fantasy segments or prototypes in toy promotion, as long the use of them is not deceptive.
The FTC also announced a related complaint and settlement agreement naming Hasbro, that were filed in federal court. The complaint charges in part that Hasbro engaged in the alleged law violations described above with knowledge of the FTC's deter- mination in a previous toy-advertising case that it is unfair, deceptive and unlawful to misrepresent the performance of any toy. Specifically, the complaint states, Hasbro was notified in 1976 of the FTC's previous determination and told that businesses which engaged in such misrepresentations could be held liable for the payment of civil penalties. Then in 1978, the complaint states, Hasbro paid a $40,000 civil penalty as part of a settlement of FTC charges that it misrepresented the performance of two of its toys, despite knowledge of this determination.
The proposed consent decree settling the federal court charges, which must be approved by the court, would require Hasbro to pay a $175,000 civil penalty, due within five days of the court's approval.
The Commission votes to authorize the filing of the civil penalty complaint and consent decree, and to announce the other complaints and proposed consent agreements for public comment, were 5-0.
The civil penalty complaint and proposed consent decree naming Hasbro were filed by the Department of Justice, at the FTC's request, in U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island, in Providence, on April 14.
The administrative complaints and proposed consent agreements with both companies 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 them final. Comments should be addressed to the Office of the Secretary, FTC, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580.
NOTE: Consent agreements and consent decrees are for settlement purposes only and do not constitute admissions of a law viola- tions. When the Commission issues a consent agreement on a final basis, it is called a consent order and it carries the force of law with respect to future actions by the named companies. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of $10,000. Consent decrees have the force of law when signed by the judge.
A free FTC Fact Sheet for consumers called "Toy Ads on TV" offers tips to help consumers evaluate these ads and the toys they promote. Copies of the fact sheet and the documents associated with these cases are available from the FTC's Public Reference Branch, Room 130, same address as above; 202-326-2222; TTY for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. Hasbro/Griffin Bacal--04/15/93)
MEDIA CONTACT: Bonnie Jansen, Office of Public Affairs 202-326-2161
STAFF CONTACT: Rosemary Rosso, Bureau of Consumer Protection 202-326-2174 or Toby M. Levin, Bureau of Consumer Protection 292-326-3156
(FTC File No. 912 3369) (Hasbro Civil Action No. 93-0212) (hasbrogb)