The Division of Advertising Practices (Division or DAP) enforces the nation’s “truth-in-advertising” laws, which require advertisers to tell the truth and to back up their claims with reliable, objective evidence. DAP uses a variety of tools to protect consumers from misleading claims, including bringing law enforcement actions in federal and administrative courts, issuing warning letters, developing rules and guidance to businesses, advocating effective industry self-regulation, and preparing consumer education materials. Working to protect consumers’ health, safety, and economic interests, the Division’s efforts span a broad range of products and practices.
The Division's enforcement priorities include:
- combating unfair or deceptive advertising for a variety of health products and services, including scams capitalizing on public health crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic;
- monitoring deceptive advertising of addiction-related services, including enforcement of the Opioid Addiction Recovery Fraud Prevention Act;
- monitoring and developing effective enforcement strategies for emerging issues such as social media influencers, fake online reviews, and native advertising;
- enforcing the Consumer Review Fairness Act, which prohibits form contracts from restricting a consumer’s ability to post truthful reviews about a seller’s goods, services, or conduct;
- pursuing deceptive conduct by a variety of national advertisers, including broadband providers, online ticket sellers, and online travel sites;
- leading the FTC’s efforts to stop the deceptive or unfair marketing of tobacco (including e-cigarettes), monitoring and reporting on tobacco marketing practices, and reviewing and approving tobacco company labels and ads; and
- monitoring and reporting on alcohol industry self-regulation, and bringing law enforcement actions as needed.
Rules and Guides
DAP develops regulations and issues policy statements and business guidance, including:
- The Contact Lens Rule and the Eyeglass Rule, which require, among other things, that contact lens and eyeglass prescribers automatically provide patients with a copy of their prescriptions at the completion of a lens or eyeglass fitting;
- The Guides Concerning Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising, which provide that endorsements must be truthful and not misleading, and that material connections between advertisers and endorsers should be disclosed clearly, and The FTC’s Endorsement Guides: What People Are Asking, in which Division staff answers some frequently asked questions from advertisers, ad agencies, and others;
- The Enforcement Policy Statement on Deceptively Formatted Advertisements and Native Advertising: A Guide for Businesses, which apply truth-in-advertising principles to social media marketing, paid search results, and “native” ads (e., ads resembling non-advertising content);
- The .com Disclosures: How to Make Effective Disclosures Online, which offers DAP’s guidance for online advertisers; and
- Dietary Supplements: An Advertising Guide for Industry, which provides businesses with guidance for claims they make about dietary supplements.
Consumer Protection Initiatives
The Division coordinates and addresses current consumer protection issues with state, federal, and international law enforcement agencies, as well as with industry self-regulatory groups. These initiatives include:
- working with the Food and Drug Administration to combat fraudulent health products and services and to coordinate oversight of tobacco products;
- convening workshops with other government agencies, businesses, consumer groups, and community-based organizations;
- participating in the Federal Working Group on Dietary Supplements and the Interagency Coordinating Committee to Prevent Underage Drinking, among other working groups;
- working with consumer protection agencies in other countries to combat the cross-border marketing of fraudulent and potentially harmful health products; and
- promoting truthful national advertising by reviewing referrals from self-regulatory organizations, consumer groups, and other third parties.