Green Foot Global said its EnviroTabs fuel additive was “the world’s 1st multi-vitamin for your engine.” A lawsuit filed by the FTC suggests that one primary nutrient in the environmental “multi-vitamin” was Vitamin D — for Deception.
Advertised online in English and Spanish, EnviroTabs sold for about $25. The product was promoted as a quadruple threat for gear heads and tree huggers alike. “Do Your Part to Protect the Planet,” the ads said. Pop EnviroTabs in your gas tank and they’re guaranteed to “reduce harmful emissions,” “save you money at the pump,” “lower your maintenance costs,” and “increase engine horsepower.”
In addition, the company said its claims were backed by gold-standard science: “Double blind, statistical testing proved your mileage will increase from 7% to 14% and customers have reported as much as 19% or more.” Don’t just take our word for it, the defendants said. “Independent Emissions Testing Facilities have found you can dramatically reduce emissions with the use of EnviroTabs. Testing has shown 40-91% reduction.”
The FTC’s complaint challenged the fuel efficiency and cost savings promises as false and misleading. What about those “green” emission reduction claims? According to the lawsuit, they’re hot air, too. The settlement requires the defendants to have appropriate proof to back up fuel economy and emissions representations, as well as environmental promises about anything they sell, directly or indirectly.
The case offers two takeaway tips for other businesses:
First, it won’t come as surprise, but companies that make claims about fuel savings or environmental benefits — and especially companies that make claims about fuel savings and environmental benefits — need sound science to back up what they say. When ads refer specifically to tests and studies, consider the ante upped even more.
Second, the lawsuit names Green Foot Global and five individuals involved in promoting EnviroTabs. The facts of each case are unique, of course, but the complaint offers example of the kinds of activities the FTC thought warranted individual liability in this instance. The bottom line for busy executives: Don’t assume that L.L.C. after your corporate name will necessarily shield you from liability under the FTC Act. More food for thought: The $800,000 redress provision applies, as lawyers like to day, “jointly and severally.” That means all defendants, corporate and individual, are financially responsible.
We won't call it a multi-vitamin for your compliance efforts, but to supplement your knowledge, consult the FTC's Environmental Marketing resources.