FOR RELEASE: December 17, 1991
CLAIMS THAT SUNOCO HIGH-OCTANE GASOLINE IS SUPERIOR ARE UNSUBSTANTIATED, FTC CHARGES: Consent Agreement Would Settle Charges
Sun Company, Inc., and its subsidiary, Sun Refining and Marketing Company, both of Philadelphia, have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they claimed Sunoco high- octane Ultra 93.5 and Ultra 94 gasolines are superior to other gasolines in providing engine power and acceleration, but did not have a reasonable basis to back up these representations. The proposed settlement agreement would prohibit any future unsub- stantiated engine-performance claims for Sunoco gasolines. According to the FTC's complaint, issued simultaneously with the proposed consent agreement to settle the charges, advertise- ments for Ultra 93.5 and 94 gasolines made the following state- ments:
-- No other gasoline can give your car better acceleration. Because no other gasoline has 94 octane; and
-- Because no other gasoline has 94 octane - the highest octane under the sun....Don't waste your time going anywhere else. Come to Sunoco and fill up with Ultra 94 - for maximum power and performance.
- more -
The complaint charges that, through these and other state- ments in advertisements, Sunoco has represented that Ultra 93.5 and 94 gasolines provide superior engine power and acceleration, as compared to any other gasoline; and represented that they possessed a reasonable basis to substantiate such claims, when, in fact, they did not.
The proposed consent agreement would prohibit Sunoco from making any representation about the superiority of Ultra 93.5 or 94 in providing engine power or acceleration for any automobile, and from representing the performance attributes of any gasoline with respect to engine power, acceleration, or any other perfor- mance characteristics, unless Sunoco possesses competent and reliable scientific evidence to substantiate the claims.
The FTC has not alleged any mislabeling in the posting of octane ratings at the pumps.
In July of this year, the FTC, in conjunction with the American Automobile Association, published a brochure advising consumers to purchase the lowest octane gasoline that their cars can use without knocking. The brochure notes that "many experts believe that most cars do not need a high octane gasoline to perform properly and efficiently." It also advises consumers to "check your owner's manual for the recommended octane level."
The vote to issue the proposed consent agreement for public cooment was 3-1, with Commissioner Deborah K. Owen dissenting and Commissioner Dennis A. Yao not participating. In her dissenting statement, Commissioner Owen said, "in light of the respondents' past conduct, and because the total consumer injury arising from the claims involved may be very costly...the public interest would have been better served if the remedy in this matter had provided stronger incentives to ensure compliance with the FTC Act, or had provided other relief that would truly benefit consumers."
The proposed consent agreement will be published in the Federal Register shortly. It 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: FTC, Office of the Secretary, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washing- ton, D.C. 20580; 202-326-2222; TTY 1-866-653-4261.
NOTE: A consent agreement is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute 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 violations. Each viola- tion of such an order may result in a civil penalty of up to $10,000.
Copies of the complaint, proposed consent agreement, an analysis to aid public comment, Commissioner Owen's dissenting statement, and the FTC brochure "Octane Ratings," are available from the FTC's Public Reference Branch, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-326-2222; TTY 1-866-653-4261
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MEDIA CONTACT: Howard Shapiro, Office of Public Affairs, 202-326-2176
STAFF CONTACT: Joel Winston, Bureau of Consumer Protection, 202-326-3153
(FTC File No. 902 3268)