Marketers of consumer products touting various environmental-benefit claims finally have some closure on how to approach green advertising without running afoul of the Federal Trade Commission, said LeClairRyan partner and 17-year FTC veteran Thomas A. Cohn during an Oct. 12 business-law conference. But while the FTC’s finalized Green Guides do offer more clarity to sellers of packaged goods stamped with the likes of “recyclable,” “biodegradable” or “recycled content,” they fail to offer guidance for other terms that are in widespread use, Cohn added.
“These terms include ‘sustainable,’ ‘natural’ and even ‘organic,’ ” the attorney noted in his presentation to the 42nd Annual Advanced Business Law Conference, a Virginia Continuing Legal Education event in Williamsburg. “Still, the top-level themes of the finalized Green Guides are consistent with the proposed revisions published two years ago -- namely, that marketers should not make broad, unqualified, general environmental benefit claims, because such claims are nearly impossible to substantiate and are thus deceptive.”
The FTC announced the final Green Guides, which are designed to help marketers avoid making misleading environmental claims, on Oct. 1, and the agency is unlikely to revise the rules again for another 10 years, said Cohn, who is based in the national law firm’s Manhattan and Washington, D.C., offices. “In recent years, the FTC has been more aggressive about ferreting out what it sees as deceptive or unsubstantiated environmental claims under the mandate of the FTC Act,” he noted. “The agency has targeted the claims of replacement-window sellers, makers of ‘bamboo’ clothing and sellers of supposedly ‘biodegradable’ plates and towels, just to name a few of its recent enforcements.”
Marketers thus already had good reason to study and conform to the proposed revisions of the guides, which were available online at the FTC’s website since October 2010. It is worth noting, however, that the newly finalized rules do contain some changes from those initially proposed revisions. &ldquo