FTC - Complying with the Environmental Marketing Guides

5/1/2000

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FTC LogoThis information is provided under a cooperative agreement between the Better Business Bureau and the U. S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which has prepared this information.

Facts for Business
Complying with the Environmental Marketing Guides
This publication provides the FTC Staff's view of the law's requirements.
It is not binding on the Commission.

Introduction
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) seeks to prevent deception and unfairness in the marketplace. The FTC Act gives the Commission the power to bring law enforcement actions against false or misleading marketing claims, including environmental or "green" marketing claims. The FTC issued its Environmental Guides, often referred to as the "Green Guides," in 1992, and revised them most recently in 1998. The Guides indicate how the Commission will apply Section 5 of the FTC Act, which prohibits unfair or deceptive acts or practices, to environmental marketing claims.

Like other industry guides issued by the FTC, the Environmental Guides "are administrative interpretations of laws administered by the Commission for the guidance of the public in conducting its affairs in conformity with legal requirements." Conduct that is inconsistent with the positions in the Environmental Guides may result in corrective action by the Commission, if after investigation, the Commission has reason to believe that the conduct violates prohibitions against unfair or deceptive acts or practices.

The Environmental Guides apply to all forms of marketing for products and services: advertisements, labels, package inserts, promotional materials, words, symbols, logos, product brand names, and marketing through digital or electronic media, such as the Internet or email. They apply to any claim, express or implied, about the environmental attributes of a product, package or service in connection with the sale, offering for sale or marketing of the product, package or service for personal, family or household use, or for commercial, institutional or industrial use. See the complete text of the Environmental Guides.

This booklet provides the FTC staff's view of the law's requirements. It is not binding on the Commission.

Environmental Marketing Claims
The FTC looks at all advertising from the consumer's perspective: what message does the advertising actually convey to consumers? The Environmental Guides explain how consumers are likely to interpret environmental marketing claims so that marketers can avoid making false or misleading claims. The Guides give environmental claims the meaning that consumers give them, not necessarily the technical or scientific definition of terms. Also, they do not establish standards for environmental performance or prescribe testing protocols.

For environmental claims that the Guides do not address specifically, FTC law requires substantiation for all reasonable interpretations of an ad. Sometimes, it may be necessary to do research to determine how consumers interpret an ad.

Substantiation
All marketers making express or implied claims about the attributes of their product, package or service must have substantiation, that is, a reasonable basis for their claims. When it comes to environmental claims, a reasonable basis often may require competent and reliable scientific evidence, which is defined as tests, analyses, research, studies or other evidence based on the expertise of professionals in the relevant area conducted and evaluated in an objective way by qualified people using procedures generally accepted in the profession to yield accurate and reliable results.

Specificity
An environmental marketing claim should specify whether it refers to the product, the packaging or both, or just to a component of the product or its packaging.

A box of cereal is labeled "recycled package." The package consists of a paperboard box with a wax paper bag inside holding the cereal. By itself, the claim "recycled package" could apply to both the box and the bag. If only the box is recycled, the claim is deceptive. It should be qualified to say, for example, "recycled box."

A steel can that contains vegetables is labeled "recycled." No qualification is necessary for this claim because it is obvious to consumers that the can is recycled-not the vegetables.

Qualifications (that is, disclosures or explanations) pertaining to an environmental claim should be clear, prominent and understandable. Clarity can be achieved through the size of the type face, proximity of the qualification to the claim being qualified, and absence of contrary language that could undercut effectiveness.

A paperboard box of plastic cups says "Recycled" prominently on the front panel. Language that explains the recycled claim appears in small type on the back of the box: "This carton contains 100% recycled fiber." Although the language qualifies the recycled claim, the explanatory language is too small and too far away from the claim for consumers to notice it. Therefore, the claim would be deceptive because consumers would interpret it to mean that the cups (not just the carton) were made from recycled content.

Environmental claims should not exaggerate or overstate attributes or benefits.

A greeting card seller declares on its website that its greeting cards now contain "50% more recycled content than before." The manufacturer increased the recycled content of its cards from 2 percent recycled material to 3 percent recycled material. Even though the claim is technically correct, it is likely to convey the false impression that the use of recycled material was increased significantly.

Comparative environmental claims should be clear to avoid consumer confusion about what is being compared.

A detergent bottle is labeled "50% more recycled content." This claim is ambiguous because it could be a comparison to the marketer's immediately preceding detergent bottle or to a competitor's detergent bottle. The marketer should make the basis for the comparison clear, saying, for example, "50% more recycled content than our previous package."

General Claims
Specific environmental claims are easier to substantiate than general claims and less likely to be deceptive. An unqualified general claim of environmental benefit may convey that the product has far-reaching environmental benefits, when it doesn't.

A cloth shopping bag is labeled "eco-friendly." This claim would be deceptive if it leads consumers to believe that the bag has environmental benefits that the manufacturer can't substantiate. It would not be deceptive if "eco-friendly" were followed by clear and prominent language limiting the "friendly" representation to the product attribute for which it could be substantiated, and if the context didn't create any other deceptive implications. A qualification for the "eco-friendly" claim (assuming substantiation) would be: "This cloth bag is reusable and is made from 100% recycled fibers."

The packaging on a pad of writing paper claims that the writing paper is "environmentally safe" with this explanation: the paper is "environmentally safe because it was not chlorine bleached, a process that has been shown to create harmful substances." Although the paper was not bleached with chlorine, the production process created and released significant quantities of other harmful substances into the environment. Because consumers are likely to interpret the "environmentally safe" claim and the explanation to mean that the paper causes no significant harmful substances to be released to the environment, the "environmentally safe" claim would be deceptive.

Products advertised as "environmentally preferable" are likely to convey to consumers an environmental superiority to other products. A broad claim like that would be deceptive if the manufacturer cannot substantiate it. The claim would not be deceptive if it is accompanied by clear and prominent qualifying language that limits the environmental superiority representation to the particular product attribute that can be substantiated, provided that the context doesn't create any other deceptive implications.

A degreasing product is labeled "environmentally preferable." The label states that the product is ideal for cleaning equipment, garage floors and driveways. But it doesn't state how the product is "environmentally preferable." Using the phrase without specific qualifying language is deceptive if it leads consumers to believe that the product has superior environmental features that cannot be substantiated. To avoid deception, the claim "environmentally preferable" should be qualified with clear and prominent language that states (if substantiated) how the product is "environmentally preferable," for example: "This product has no air polluting potential and is 100% biodegradable."

The President of the United States issued an Executive Order encouraging federal procurement officers to purchase environmentally preferable products. The Executive Order defines "environmentally preferable products" as products and services that have a lesser or reduced effect on human health and the environment when compared to other products and services that serve the same purpose. In response to that Executive Order, Clean and Green Company, Inc., advertises its cleaning products in a government catalog. The cleaning products are advertised as "environmentally preferable," but there's no explanation about the attributes of the products that make them "environmentally preferable." Even though Clean and Green Company, Inc., is selling its cleaning products in a government catalog, it is responsible for having substantiation for its environmental claims. If the vendor cannot substantiate broad environmental claims, the claims should be qualified to indicate what aspects of the products are "environmentally preferable."

Environmental symbols or pictures also can convey to consumers that the product is environmentally superior to other products. If you use an environmental symbol or picture, make sure that you can substantiate the broad environmental claim. Otherwise, use clear and prominent qualifying language to limit the environmental superiority claim to the particular attribute(s) for which you have substantiation.

Consumers understand claims that a product is "non-toxic," "essentially non-toxic," or "practically non-toxic" to mean that the toxicity claims apply not only to human health effects, but also to environmental effects. If a product poses a significant risk to humans or to the environment, a non-toxic type of claim would be deceptive.

Eco-Seals, Seals-of-Approval and Certifications
Environmental seals-of-approval, eco-seals and certifications from third-party organizations imply that a product is environmentally superior to other products. Because such broad claims are difficult to substantiate, seals-of-approval should be accompanied by information that explains the basis for the award. If the seal-of-approval implies that a third party has certified the product, the certifying party must be truly independent from the advertiser and must have professional expertise in the area that is being certified.

The FTC analyzes third-party certification claims to ensure that they are substantiated and not deceptive. Third-party certification does not insulate an advertiser from Commission scrutiny or eliminate an advertiser's obligation to ensure for itself that the claims communicated by the certification are substantiated.

Great Paper Company sells photocopy paper whose packaging has a seal-of-approval from the No Chlorine Products Association that states "totally chlorine-free paper." An explanation under the seal-of-approval says the paper production process did not use pulp produced with chlorine or compounds containing chlorine as bleaching agents. Using the highest industry standards, the No Chlorine Products Association certifies that products are chlorine-free only after industry experts have conducted comprehensive mill audits. The claim is unlikely to be deceptive.

"Degradable," "Biodegradable" or "Photodegradable" Claims
Claims that a product is "degradable," "biodegradable" or "photodegradable" mean that the materials will break down and return to nature within a reasonably short time after customary disposal. What a "reasonably short time" is depends on where the product is disposed.

For example, in landfills, where most garbage is taken, materials degrade very slowly, if at all. This is because modern landfills are designed, according to law, to keep out sunlight, air and moisture. This helps prevent pollutants from the garbage from getting into the air and drinking water, and slows the decomposition of the trash. With materials like paper and food taking decades to decompose in a landfill, it is difficult to substantiate a claim that a product normally disposed of in a landfill is "biodegradable," "degradable" or "photodegradable."

Biodegradable claims for products that go down the drain, like detergents and shampoos, may be substantiated if the product will degrade in wastewater treatment systems. A "reasonably short period of time" for biodegradability of products like detergents and shampoos that go into the wastewater treatment systems would be about the same time that it takes for sewage to be processed in the wastewater treatment systems. Unqualified claims of biodegradability may only be made for products that are disposed of in such a way that they completely break down and return to nature within a reasonably short period of time after disposal or use.

A pressed pulp planter that contains a dogwood tree is labeled "biodegradable." Once the planter and tree are planted in the ground, the planter quickly disintegrates and biodegrades, allowing the roots of the dogwood tree to reach out to the surrounding earth. This unqualified claim is not deceptive.

Claims of photogradability of a product may be qualified to indicate a limited breakdown of the product. For instance, if a plastic mulch film labeled "photodegradable" does not decompose into elements found in nature, but only breaks down into small pieces if left uncovered in the sunlight, the photogradability claim should be qualified, for example: "Will break down into small pieces if left uncovered in sunlight."

"Compostable" Claims
Composting turns degradable materials into useable compost-humus-like material that enriches the soil and returns nutrients to the earth. "Compostable" claims would be appropriate on products or packages that will break down, or become part of usable compost (for example, soil-conditioning material or mulch), in a safe and timely manner in home compost piles. For composting, a "timely manner" is approximately the same time that it takes organic compounds, like leaves, grass, and food stuff, to compost.

Claims for a product that is "compostable" in a municipal or institutional composting facility-but that won't break down quickly enough to be compostable in home compost piles-may need to be qualified to avoid deception about the limited availability of municipal or institutional composting facilities. Consumers are likely to understand "compostable" claims to mean that the product can be composted at home or in their community. If it isn't, the "compostable" claim should be accompanied by an explanation. For example, a lawn and leaf bag might say, "Appropriate composting facilities may not be available in your area."

"Recyclable Claims"
"Recyclable" claims on labels and advertisements mean that the products can be collected, separated or recovered from the solid waste stream and used again, or reused in the manufacture or assembly of another package or product through an established recycling program. A claim of recyclability should make clear to consumers whether it refers to the product, the package, or both.

Unless the entire product or package is recyclable, the claim should specifically indicate which parts of the product or package are recyclable. If only minor or incidental components are not recyclable, the claim does not need to be qualified.

"Recyclable" claims should not be made for a product or package that is made from recyclable material but is not accepted in recycling programs because of its shape, size or some other attribute. For example, many recycling programs accept #1 PETE (polyethylene terephthalete) and #2 HDPE (high density polyethylene) plastics as long as they are bottles or jugs with a "neck." A manufacturer of a margarine tub made of PETE could not rely on the availability of PETE bottle collection programs to substantiate a claim that the tub is recyclable.

To help in battery collection and recycling, the Mercury-Containing and Rechargeable Battery Management Act establishes uniform national labeling requirements for certain types of nickel-cadmium rechargeable and small lead-acid rechargeable batteries. The Battery Act requires that the batteries must be labeled with the three-chasing-arrows symbol or a comparable recycling symbol, and the statement, "Battery Must Be Recycled Or Disposed Of Properly." Batteries labeled in accordance with this federal statute are in compliance with the FTC's Environmental Guides.

Many consumers mistakenly assume that if a product is labeled "recyclable," it can be dropped in their recycling bin or taken to a local drop-off facility. But for a product to be labeled "recyclable" without qualification, it must be collected for recycling in a substantial majority of communities or by a substantial majority of consumers where the product is sold. If the particular material is not collected for recycling in a substantial majority of communities where it is sold, the recyclable claim should be qualified to indicate the limited availability of recycling programs to avoid deception.

For example, if collection sites for products are established in a significant percentage of communities or available to a significant percentage of the population, but yet not a substantial majority, suggested language would be: "This bottle [product] may not be recyclable in your area," or "Recycling programs for this bottle [product] may not exist in your area." Other adequate qualifications of the claim would include the approximate percentage of communities or the population for whom programs are available.

Phrases like "Recyclable where facilities exist" or "Check to see if recycling facilities exist in your area" are not adequate qualifiers. They are too general to alert consumers to inquire about recycling facilities for the particular item they want to recycle.

A paperboard cereal box is marketed nationally and labeled "Recyclable where facilities exist." Although recycling programs for this cereal box are available in a significant percentage of communities or to a significant percentage of the population where the product is sold, they are not available to a substantial majority of consumers. The claim is deceptive because reasonable consumers living in communities not served by programs that recycle paperboard may understand the phrase to mean that paperboard recycling programs are available in their area. To avoid deception, the claim should be qualified to indicate the limited availability of paperboard recycling programs, for example: "Recyclable in the few communities that recycle paperboard."

"Please Recycle" Claims
Consumers interpret the phrase "Please Recycle" on products or packages to mean that the product or package is "recyclable." That's why the same guidelines for making "recyclable" claims apply to "Please Recycle" claims. Unless recycling collection sites for the product are available to a substantial majority of consumers or communities where the product is sold, the "Please Recycle" phrase should not be used unless it is qualified.

A paperboard "just add water and eat" soup container is labeled "Please Recycle." Collection sites for this paperboard soup container are not available to a substantial majority of consumers or communities where the product is sold, making the "Please Recycle" claim deceptive. Unless evidence shows otherwise, reasonable consumers in communities without programs that recycle food-contaminated paperboard may conclude that recycling programs for these containers are in their communities.

Private Recycling Programs
Businesses with established private recycling programs can make "recyclable" claims for the products they recycle, provided the program is available in a substantial majority of communities where the products are sold. Otherwise, the "recyclable" claim must be qualified to indicate the limited availability of the recycling program.

A manufacturer of one-time use cameras, with dealers in a substantial majority of communities, collects the cameras through its dealers. After the exposed film is removed for processing, the manufacturer reconditions the cameras for resale and labels them: "Recyclable through our dealership network." This claim is not deceptive, even though the cameras are not recyclable through conventional curbside or drop-off recycling programs.

A manufacturer of toner cartridges for laser printers has established a recycling program to recover its cartridges exclusively through its nationwide dealership network. The company advertises its cartridges nationally as "Recyclable. Contact your local dealer for details." The dealers participating in the recovery program are located in a significant number of communities where the cartridges are sold-but not a substantial majority. The "recyclable" claim would be deceptive unless a qualifier indicated the limited availability of recycling locations, for example: "Dealers in major metropolitan areas accept toner cartridges for recycling."

Recycled Content" Claims
"Recycled content" claims on labels and in advertising may be made for materials that have been recovered or diverted from the solid waste stream, either during the manufacturing process (pre-consumer) or after consumer use (post-consumer). If the product or package does not consist of 100 percent recycled content (excluding minor, incidental components), qualifying words-like the percentage of recycled content in the product-must be used to limit the claim.

Pre-consumer recycled material is a waste product of a manufacturing process, diverted from the solid waste stream and not normally reused by industry during the original manufacturing process. To make an appropriate "pre-consumer" recycled content claim, you must be able to substantiate that the pre-consumer material would otherwise have gone into the solid waste stream. In contrast, by-products of a manufacturing process that normally are reused within the process and usually don't enter the waste stream are considered industrial scrap and don't count toward recycled content. When you make a "recycled content" claim, you may distinguish between pre-consumer and post-consumer materials if you have substantiation.

A ream of notebook paper is composed 20 percent by fiber weight of paper collected from consumers after use of a paper product, and 30 percent by fiber weight of paper that was generated after completion of the paper-making process, diverted from the solid waste stream, and otherwise would not normally have been reused in the original manufacturing process. The marketer of the notebook paper may claim that the product "contains 50% recycled fiber," or identify the specific pre-consumer and/or post-consumer content by stating that the product "contains 50% total recycled fiber, including 20% post-consumer material."

"Recycled content" includes recycled raw material, as well as used,1 reconditioned, rebuilt and remanufactured2 components. For products that contain used, reconditioned, rebuilt or remanufactured components, a recycled claim should be qualified adequately to avoid consumer confusion about the origin of the components.

A manufacturer of photocopier machines labels its machines as "50% recycled." In fact, each photocopier contains 50 percent reconditioned parts. This claim is deceptive because consumers are unlikely to realize that the recycled content of the photocopier machines consists of reconditioned parts.

An automobile parts dealer buys a transmission that has been recovered from a junked vehicle. A total of 85 percent by weight of the transmission was rebuilt and 15 percent constitutes new materials. After rebuilding the transmission in accordance with industry practices, the dealer packages it for resale in a box labeled "Rebuilt Transmission," "Rebuilt Transmission (85% recycled content from rebuilt parts)," or "Recycled Transmission (85% recycled content from rebuilt parts)." These claims are not likely to be deceptive.

A qualification about a product's used, reconditioned, rebuilt or remanufactured content is not needed where consumers would understand from the context that a product's recycled content consists of used, rebuilt, remanufactured or reconditioned components.

A dealer of used automotive parts recovers a serviceable engine from a vehicle that has been totaled. Without repairing, rebuilding, remanufacturing or altering the engine or its components in any way, the dealer attaches a "Recycled" label to the engine, and offers it for resale in its used auto parts store. Here, the unqualified recycled content claim is not deceptive because consumers are likely to understand that the engine is used and has not been rebuilt.

An Internet site called "Double Play Sports" sells what it describes as "previously owned sports gear." Although used, many of the items for sale on the site are no different in appearance from brand new equipment. The sports equipment bears a "Recycled" claim. This claim is not likely to be deceptive because, unless evidence shows otherwise, consumers would understand from the context of the site that the items are used, rather than made of recycled raw materials. However, if the site sold both used and new items-or did not otherwise describe the used items as "previously owned"-the recycled claim might be deceptive.

Calculating the Percentage of Recycled Content When It Comes from Several Sources. The percentage of recycled content may be based on the annual weighted average of the recycled material.

A paper greeting card is labeled as containing 50 percent recycled fiber. The seller buys paper stock from several sources and the amount of recycled fiber in the stock varies. The claim is permissible because the 50 percent figure is based on the annual weighted average of recycled material purchased from the sources after accounting for fiber loss during the production process.

In claims for a minimum level of recycled content, such as, "contains at least 35% post-consumer fiber," averaging may not be used if the claim leads reasonable consumers to believe that each item labeled contains at least the described amount of recycled content.

"Recycled" Claims for Coated Paper
Claims should indicate that the paper fiber is "recycled" unless the coating is, too.

If 50 percent of a glossy magazine's weight comes from the coating and 50 percent from the paper fiber, and only the fiber is recycled, the claim could state "recycled fiber" or "50% recycled paper."

Symbols
Many consumers are confused about what they can recycle in their communities because so many products display the universal recycling symbol. Often called the "three-chasing-arrows" or "Mobius loop," this image is likely to convey that the packaging is both "recyclable" and "recycled." Unless both messages can be substantiated, the claim should make clear whether the reference is to the package's recyclability or its recycled content. If a "recyclable" claim is intended, the label may need to disclose the limited availability of recycling programs for the package or product. If a "recycled content" claim is intended-and the packaging or the product is not made entirely from recycled material-the label should disclose the percentage of recycled content.

The universal recycling symbol may be qualified in a number of ways, for example:

45% recycled content
(10% post-consumer material)
 The manufacturer must be able to substantiate that 45 percent of this product is made from materials that would otherwise have entered the waste stream, including 10 percent from material that previously had been used by consumers. 
 
Recycling programs for this package may not exist in your area.
 This qualified claim means that the package is not collected for recycling in a substantial majority of communities or by a substantial majority of consumers where the product is sold. 

Consumers may interpret this symbol to mean that the package it is on is recyclable. Developed by the Society of the Plastics Industry, this SPI code is used to indicate the type of plastic from which the product is made. SPI code numbers range from 1 to 7.3 The FTC does not consider the SPI code to be a claim of recyclability if it is placed on the bottom of a package inconspicuously. In contrast, if used conspicuously, it is treated as a "recyclable" claim, and the manufacturer must comply with the appropriate provisions of the Environmental Guides.

A nationally marketed yogurt container displays the SPI code on the front label of the container, near the product name and logo. The manufacturer's conspicuous use of the SPI code constitutes a recyclability claim. Unless recycling facilities for the yogurt container are available to a substantial majority of consumers or communities where the yogurt is sold, the claim should be qualified to disclose the limited availability of recycling programs for the container. Had the SPI code been placed in an inconspicuous location on the container (for example, on the bottom of the container) it would not be considered a claim of recyclability.

If other symbols or logos are used, advertisers must be able to substantiate the meaning reasonable consumers would attach to the symbols. To determine the meaning that consumers take from symbols or logos, it may be necessary for the advertiser to conduct consumer research.

"Source Reduction" Claims
"Source reduction" refers to reducing or lowering the weight, volume or toxicity of a product or package. To avoid being misleading, source reduction claims must qualify the amount of the source reduction and give the basis for any comparison that is made. These principles apply regardless of whether a term like "source reduced" is used.

A baby wipe dispenser is labeled "50% less plastic." The claim is ambiguous because it could be a comparison to the immediately preceding product of the advertiser or to a competitor's product. The "50% less plastic" reference is deceptive unless the seller clarifies which comparison is intended and substantiates the comparison, or substantiates both possible interpretations of the claim.

A marketer claims on its Internet site that the new packaging for its deodorant results in 20 percent less waste. The marketer has eliminated the outer cartons of its deodorant bottles, which constituted 20 percent by weight of the package. This source reduction claim is unlikely to be deceptive.

"Refillable" Claims
"Refillable" claims should be made only if a system is provided for collecting and returning the package for refill or the later refill of the package by consumers with a product subsequently sold in another package. A package should not be marketed with an unqualified refillable claim if it is up to the consumer to find new ways to refill the package. For example, a gallon spring water jug should not be labeled "refillable" just because consumers could refill the jug with tap water.

A manufacturer could label a detergent bottle as "refillable" if the manufacturer sells a concentrated refill for the detergent bottle.

Baby wipes sold in foil wrap can be labeled as a "refill" if the manufacturer sells wipes in a lidded, hard plastic container where the wipes "refill" package can be placed.

The Environmental Guides do not define the term "reusable." As long as a product can be used again in some way, a claim that a product is "reusable" is unlikely to be deceptive.

"Ozone Safe," "Ozone Friendly" and "No CFCs" Claims
"Ozone safe" and "ozone friendly" claims mean that neither the product nor its packaging harms the atmosphere by contributing to the depletion of the stratospheric (upper atmosphere) ozone layer or to the formation of ground-level ozone.

Consumers may confuse the upper ozone layer with ground-level ozone. The ozone layer in the upper atmosphere is needed to prevent the sun's harmful radiation from reaching the earth. But when ozone develops at the ground level, it forms smog, which can cause serious breathing problems. Avoid "ozone safe" and "ozone friendly" claims on products that contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone, even if the product is safe for the upper ozone layer.

CFCs-chemical substances called chlorofluorocarbons-can deplete the earth's protective ozone layer. In 1978, CFCs were banned for use as propellants in nearly all consumer aerosol products, and gradually, are being phased out of all products and manufacturing processes.

Even though certain products do not contain CFCs, they may contain other ozone-depleting ingredients. A "no CFCs" or "CFC-Free" claim is likely to imply that the product contains no ozone-depleting ingredients and should not be made if, indeed, ozone-depleting ingredients are present.

The seller of foam plastic tableware makes an unqualified claim that its product "contains no CFCs." Although the tableware does not contain CFCs, it was manufactured with HCFC-22, another ozone-depleting ingredient. Because the claim "contains no CFCs" may imply to reasonable consumers that the product does not harm the ozone layer, the claim is deceptive.

Claims may be made about a product's reduced ozone-depleting potential if they are substantiated.

A nasal inhalant is labeled "95% less damaging to the ozone layer than past formulations that contained CFCs." The manufacturer has substituted HCFCs for CFC-12, and can substantiate that this substitution will result in 95 percent less ozone depletion. It is unlikely that the qualified comparative claim is deceptive.

A product that contains no CFCs or any other ozone-depleting ingredient is not necessarily safe for the entire atmosphere. The release of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone. Common VOC substances are alcohols, butane, propane and isobutane. Emissions from cars and factories are the major source of VOC releases to the environment. But, some consumer products may contain VOCs and also may contribute to the problem. Those products include household cleaning products, floor polishes, charcoal lighter fluid, windshield washer fluid, and hair styling spray, gel and mousse-whether in aerosol cans or spray pumps. Because of their ability to contribute to ground-level ozone formation, claims like "ozone safe" or "ozone friendly" on these products are likely to be deceptive.

Hair setting gel is labeled "ozone friendly." Some of the gel's ingredients are volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that may cause smog by contributing to ground-level ozone formation. The claim is likely to convey to consumers that the gel is safe for the atmosphere as a whole, and, as a result, is deceptive.

If you have questions about the Environmental Guides, contact:

Division of Enforcement
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20580
Phone: (202) 326-2996
Fax: (202) 326-2558
www.ftc.gov 

Endnotes
Used parts are parts that are not new and that have not undergone any type of remanufacturing or reconditioning.
The terms "rebuilding," "remanufacturing" and "reconditioning" mean that the seller dismantled and reconstructed the parts as necessary, cleaned all of the internal and external parts and made them free from rust and corrosion, restored all impaired, defective or substantially worn parts to a sound condition (or replaced them if necessary), and performed any operations required to put the part in sound working condition.
A total of 39 states mandate the use of the SPI code on the bottom of bottles of 16 ounces or more and rigid containers of 8 ounces or more. The SPI's explicit guidelines about the proper sizing and positioning of the SPI code indicate that it should be applied where it will be inconspicuous to the consumer at the point of purchase so it won't influence the consumer's buying decision.
For More Information
The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair practices in the marketplace and to provide information to businesses to help them comply with the law. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, visit www.ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.

Your Opportunity to Comment
The National Small Business Ombudsman and 10 Regional Fairness Boards collect comments from small businesses about federal compliance and enforcement activities. Each year, the Ombudsman evaluates the conduct of these activities and rates each agency's responsiveness to small businesses. Small businesses can comment to the Ombudsman without fear of reprisal. To comment, call toll-free 1-888-REGFAIR (1-888-734-3247) or go to www.sba.gov/ombudsman.

May 2000

This information is provided under a cooperative agreement between the Better Business Bureau and the U. S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which has prepared this information. The FTC works to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid these practices. To learn more about the FTC and its services, visit www.ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. 
 

 

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