Eliminating false or misleading information from the marketplace is a key objective of the FTC, and one of the most effective ways the agency does that is by sending warning letters to companies that may be violating the FTC Act.
The purpose of FTC warning letters is to warn companies that their conduct is likely unlawful and that they can face serious legal consequences, such as a federal lawsuit, if they do not immediately stop. Overwhelmingly, companies that receive FTC warning letters take steps quickly to correct problematic advertising or marketing language and come into compliance with the law. In many cases, warning letters are the most rapid and effective means to address the problem.
For example, the FTC sent warning letters to a range of companies about potentially false or misleading advertising or marketing related to the coronavirus pandemic. The FTC is aware that scammers follow the headlines and try to take advantage of consumers’ fears and concerns, whether they are about their health, their jobs, their finances, or anything else important to them and their families.
Some things to keep in mind about FTC warning letters:
- When FTC warning letters are sent to companies, their purpose is to warn of possible law violations. Warning letters are not formal enforcement actions, and they may or may not be followed by FTC legal action. The letters typically include an explanation of why the company is receiving the letter and examples of problematic advertising or marketing language. They require the recipients to correct the problem immediately and contact the FTC within several days to confirm that they have made the required changes.
- The FTC may send warning letters unilaterally or jointly with other enforcement agencies. For example, the FTC joined the FDA in sending letters to the marketers of products and treatments falsely claiming they could either treat or cure COVID-19. The FTC also joined the FCC in sending warning letters to VoIP service providers about facilitating illegal robocalls. The Commission also issued its own warning letters to MLM marketers regarding false COVID-19 treatment or cure claims and earnings claims made by the marketers and their participants.
Finally, while FTC or joint agency warning letters may be public, recipients’ responses to them usually are not. After sending the letters, the FTC will not comment on whether a company or individual has received them, whether they have contacted the Commission within the amount of time required, or what they told the agency about their planned response.