On June 9, 2009, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC” or “Commission”) testified on its efforts to ensure truthfulness of environmental or “green” marketing claims before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection of the Committee on Energy and Commerce. Noting the “virtual tsunami” of environmental marketing, the FTC announced it will continue its efforts to ensure that green advertisements are “truthful, substantiated, and not confusing to consumers.”
In order to protect consumers from unfair or deceptive practices, the FTC explained its multi-tiered approach of (1) issuing rules and guides for businesses, (2) challenging fraudulent and deceptive ads through enforcement actions, and (3) publishing materials to help consumers make informed purchasing decisions.
The FTC’s Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims (“Green Guides” or “Guides”), 16 C.F.R. Part 260, are the centerpiece of the agency’s environmental marketing program, according to the testimony. The Green Guides, first issued in 1992 and most recently revised in 1998, help advertisers avoid making “unfair or deceptive” claims in violation of the Federal Trade Commission Act (“FTC Act”) by describing the basic elements needed to substantiate specific environmental claims. While the Guides “provide the basis for voluntary compliance” with section 5 of the FTC Act, “[c]onduct inconsistent with the positions articulated . . . may result in corrective action by the Commission under Section 5 if, after investigation, the Commission has reason to believe that the behavior falls within the scope of the conduct declared unlawful by the statute.” § 260.1.