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The Federal Trade Commission has completed its review of the Retail Food Store Advertising and Marketing Practices Rule (the Unavailability Rule) and will keep it in its current form.

The Unavailability Rule, issued in 1971, prohibits retail food stores from advertising prices for food, grocery products, or other merchandise unless they have the advertised products in stock and readily availability at, or below, the advertised prices.

In 1989, the FTC amended the Rule, providing an exception where “the advertisement clearly and adequately discloses that supplies of the advertised product are limited or . . . available only at some outlets.” Retail food stores do not violate the Rule if they (a) order advertised products early enough and in sufficient quantities to meet “reasonably anticipated demand,” (b) issue rainchecks for the advertised products, (c) offer comparable products at comparable prices, or (d) offer other compensation at least equal to the advertised value.

In 2011, as part of its systematic review of all of the agency’s rules and guides, the FTC sought public comments on the continuing need for the Rule, its benefits and burdens, and whether it should be expanded to cover other retailers. In response to comments received, the agency will keep the Rule unchanged.

The Commission vote approving the Federal Register Notice was 5-0. It is available on the FTC’s website and as a link to this press release and will be published in the Federal Register soon. (FTC File No. P104203; the staff contact is Jock K. Chung, Bureau of Consumer Protection, 202-326-2984)

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

Contact Information

Frank Dorman
Office of Public Affairs