Analysis of Proposed Consent
The Federal Trade Commission has accepted an agreement, subject to final approval, to a proposed consent order from Conopco, Inc. ("Conopco"). Through its numerous divisions, such as Unilever Home & Personal Care USA, Conopco manufactures and markets a large line of home and personal care products.
The proposed consent order has been placed on the public record for sixty (60) days for the reception of comments by interested persons. Comments received during this period will become part of the public record. After sixty (60) days, the Commission will again review the agreement and any comments received and will decide whether it should withdraw from the agreement and take other appropriate action or make final the agreement's proposed order.
This matter has focused on Conopco's advertisements for Vaseline Brand Intensive Care Antibacterial Hand Lotion ("VICAL"). The Commission's complaint challenges claims made in television, print, and product label advertisements. Specifically, the complaint alleges that Conopco lacked substantiation for its claims that VICAL: 1) Stops germs on hands longer than washing alone; 2) Provides continuous protection from germs for hours; and 3) Is effective against disease-causing germs, such as cold and flu viruses. According to the complaint, while VICAL can reduce the number of germs on a user's hands, the degree and duration of germ protection have not been scientifically established. Also, according to the complaint, VICAL has not been proven effective against many disease-causing germs, including cold and flu viruses, which are the cause of the most common diseases suffered by consumers.
The proposed consent order contains provisions designed to remedy the violations charged and to prevent the respondent from engaging in similar acts and practices in the future. Part I of the proposed order would require that Conopco possess and rely upon competent and reliable scientific evidence for any claim that VICAL or any other antimicrobial product: 1) Is as effective as, or is more effective than, washing alone in protecting users against germs; 2) Has a continuous effect against germs; 3) has any effect on any specific germ; and 4) Treats, cures, alleviates the symptoms of, prevents, or reduces the risk of developing any disease or disorder, such as colds, allergies, influenza, or food-borne illnesses. As set out in Part III of the proposed order, Part I will not apply to any product sold or distributed to consumers by third parties under private labeling agreements with Conopco provided, Conopco does not participate in any manner in the funding, preparation or dissemination of the product's advertising.
Part II of the proposed order contains language permitting Conopco to make drug claims that have been approved by the FDA pursuant to either a new drug application or a tentative final or final standard.
The proposed order also requires Conopco to maintain materials relied upon to substantiate claims covered by the order; to provide a copy of the consent agreement to all employees or representatives with duties affecting compliance with the terms of the order; to notify the Commission of any changes in corporate structure that might affect compliance with the order; and to file one or more reports detailing compliance with the order.
The purpose of this analysis is to facilitate public comment on the proposed order, and it is not intended to constitute an official interpretation of the agreement and proposed order, or to modify in any way their terms.