Analysis of Proposed Consent Order
The Federal Trade Commission has accepted, subject to final approval, an agreement containing a consent order from respondents Shell Oil Company and Shell Chemical Company (collectively, "Shell").
The proposed consent order has been placed on the public record for sixty (60) days for 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 the comments received and will decide whether it should withdraw from the agreement or make final the agreement's proposed order.
Shell has manufactured, tested, advertised, and sold gasoline additives to its trade customers for inclusion in aftermarket fuel system treatment products that they, in turn, sold to the public. The Commission's proposed complaint alleges that by providing its trade customers with allegedly deceptive advertising and promotional materials, as well as with making allegedly false or misleading representations to them about test data, Shell provided the means and instrumentalities to its trade customers to deceive the public. The Commission's proposed complaint alleges that Shell made unsubstantiated representations that Shell gasoline additives significantly improve engine power and acceleration in motor vehicles generally. The complaint also challenges as unsubstantiated the representations that Shell gasoline additives are superior to other fuel system additives in improving engine power and acceleration. The complaint also challenges as false or misleading Shell's representations that scientific tests prove that Shell gasoline additives (a) significantly improve engine power and acceleration, and (b) are superior to other fuel system treatments in improving engine power and acceleration.
Furthermore, the proposed complaint alleges that in reporting test results to its trade customers in regard to tests Shell conducted on its additives and in regard to tests Shell conducted on its customers' aftermarket fuel additive products which contained Shell's additives, Shell made false or misleading representations that such test results (a) constitute scientific proof that Shell gasoline additives, and its customers' products that contain Shell additives, significantly improve engine power and acceleration, and (b) constitute scientific proof that Shell gasoline additives, and its customers' products that contain Shell additives, are superior to other fuel system additives in improving engine power and acceleration.
The proposed consent order contains provisions designed to prevent respondents from engaging in similar acts and practices in the future.
Part I of the proposed order prohibits respondents claiming that any of their fuel additive products or ingredients improves power or acceleration, or is superior to other products in this regard, unless the claim is substantiated by competent and reliable scientific evidence. It also requires respondents to have substantiation for any representation concerning the performance, benefits, efficacy, attributes or use of any fuel additive product or ingredient.
Part II of the proposed order prohibits respondents from misrepresenting the existence, contents, validity, results, conclusions, or interpretations of any test, study or research done on any fuel additive product or ingredient.
Part III of the proposed order requires respondents to mail copies of the Commission's complaint and order to each trade customer that purchased the fuel additive product or ingredient involved in this matter.
Part IV of the proposed order requires respondents to maintain copies of all materials relied upon in making any representation covered by this order.
Part V of the proposed order requires respondents to distribute copies of the order to its operating divisions and to various officers, agents and employees of respondents.
Part VI of the proposed order requires respondents to notify the Commission of any changes in corporate structure that might affect compliance with the order.
Part VII of the proposed order requires respondents to file with the Commission one or more reports detailing compliance with the order.
Part VIII of the proposed order is a "sunset" provision, dictating that the order will terminate twenty years from the date it is issued or twenty years after a complaint is filed in federal court, by either the United States or the FTC, alleging any violation of the order.
The purpose of this analysis is to facilitate public comment on the proposed order. It is not intended to constitute an official interpretation of the agreement and proposed order or to modify in any way their terms.