FTC Upholds Charges: Automotive Breakthrough Sciences, Inc. Ordered Not to Use Term "ABS" to Market Add-On Brakes

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The Federal Trade Commission has ordered Automotive Breakthrough Sciences, Inc., ABS Tech Sciences, Inc., and their principal, Richard Schops, to discontinue ads for their ABS/Trax system which claim that the aftermarket brakes they sell are as effective as factory installed antilock braking systems and has barred the company from using the term "ABS" in its advertising and marketing. Commissioner Sheila F. Anthony, writing for a unanimous Commission, said that National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) test results, expert testimony, and the failure by Schops to submit competent and reliable evidence to substantiate his advertising claims, "... provide strong support for concluding that respondents made false and unsubstantiated claims that ABS/Trax would perform like and as well as an antilock braking system with respect to wheel lock-up, skidding and control in panic stops." The Commission order also prohibits Automotive Breakthrough from misrepresenting the performance characteristics of the braking system, the availability of insurance discounts for consumers who install the system and their compliance with certain government standards.

Schops has been ordered to notify all distributors and purchasers that the FTC has found that the ad claims and promotional material that stated that their aftermarket brakes had the safety advantages of factory installed ABS brakes are false and misleading.

In 1995, the FTC alleged that Automotive Breakthrough Sciences and ABS Tech Sciences made false and unsubstantiated advertising claims that their system is an antilock braking system as effective as manufacturer-installed ABS brakes; complies with performance standards established by the Society of Automotive Engineers and the NHTSA; and will qualify a vehicle for automobile insurance discounts in a significant proportion of cases. The Commission alleged that the false and unsubstantiated claims violated federal law. Administrative Law Judge Lewis F. Parker upheld the charges in a March 1997 decision, following trial. Automotive Breakthrough Sciences, ABS Tech Sciences and Schops appealed Judge Parker's decision to the Commission.

The Commission order announced today would bar representations that ABS/Trax or any substantially similar product:

  • Is an antilock braking system;
  • Provides the benefits of an antilock braking system;
  • Prevents or substantially reduces wheel lock-up, skidding, or loss of steering control in emergency stopping situations;
  • Reduces stopping distances by up to 30 percent;Mmakes operation of a vehicle safer than operation of a vehicle not equipped with the device;
  • Complies with NHTSA antilock brake standards or with Society of Automotive Engineering standard J46;
  • Will qualify a vehicle for an auto insurance discount in a significant proportion of cases.

The Commission order also would require Automotive Breakthrough Service, ABS Tech Services and Schops to have "competent and reliable scientific evidence" to support any future claims about the attributes, efficacy, performance, safety or benefits of any braking system, accessory, or device, or any other system, accessory or device designed to be used in, on, or in conjunction with any motor vehicle. They are barred from misrepresenting tests or studies. Finally, they are required to mail a notice to each past purchaser of their ABS/Trax product informing them that the Commission has found most of the advertising claims "false and misleading."

The Commission vote to issue the decision was 4-0. The order will be effective 60 days after it is served on the respondents. Under Commission rules, ex parte communications regarding this matter are barred until the Commission has disposed of any petition for reconsideration, or until the time for filing such petitions (14 days after service) has elapsed.

Copies of the Commission decision, as well as other documents associated with this case, and the companion cases, are available from the FTC's web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC's Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-FTC-HELP (202-382-4357); TDD for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710.

(Docket No. 9275)

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