Ford Motor Company and its advertising agency, Young & Rubicam, Inc., have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they made false claims about the extent to which Ford’s MicronAir Filtration System can remove air pollutants from its automobile passenger cabins. The FTC alleged that the system has no effect on gaseous pollutants, such as hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides.
The system is included in certain Ford models, including the Mercury Mystique and the Lincoln Continental. The FTC said that, although the system is a particulate filter -- which is able to screen out only particles above a certain size, and not noxious gases or very fine particles -- it was touted for its purported ability to remove “virtually all pollutants from the cabin.”
Ford is based in Dearborn, Michigan, and Young & Rubicam, one of the largest advertising agencies in the world, is based in New York City. According to industry sources, Ford has spent more than $100 million on print, television, and radio advertisements, as well as other promotional materials, for the 1995 models that include the air filtration system for which the challenged claims were made. The ads at issue began running in February 1995.
This is the first FTC case concerning exaggerated claims for automobile cabin air filters, but it follows several prior cases in which the FTC challenged overly broad claims that indoor air filters and purifiers would remove all pollutants from the air. Ford was the first American car maker to introduce cabin air filters, but they are a fast emerging trend in the American auto industry.
The settlements with Ford and Young & Rubicam would prohibit them from making broad pollution-removal claims for the MicronAir Filtration System, or any substantially similar system. The settlements also would require the firms to have competent and reliable scientific evidence to back up any efficacy claims for cabin air filters, although the order against Young & Rubicam would apply to the larger category of household air filters as well. Young & Rubicam already is bound by a 1985 order that resolved charges over its deceptive advertising of household air filters.
The Commission votes to accept the proposed consent agreements for public comment were 5-0. The consents 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 FTC, Office of the Secretary, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580.
NOTE: A consent agreement is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an 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 actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of $10,000.
Copies of the complaints, proposed consent agreements, and analyses of the agreements to assist the public in commenting are available from the FTC’s Public Reference Branch, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580: 202-326-2222; TTY for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest news as it happens, call the FTC’s NewsPhone at 202-326-2710. FTC news releases and other documents also are available on the Internet at the FTC’s World Wide Web Site at http://www.ftc.gov
FTC File Nos.: Ford -- 952 3210
Young & Rubicam -- 952 3336
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