The National Advertising Division of BBB National Programs (NAD) recommended last month that Stihl Incorporated USA (Stihl), a manufacturer of equipment and tools, discontinue or modify its unqualified “Made in America” claims. Modified claims would need to make clear that “not all (or virtually all) of its products are made in the United States and that not all (or virtually all) of the parts of those products are from the United States,” according to the recommendations.

The Claims at Issue

NAD reviewed “Made in America” claims made on Stihl’s website, social media, commercials, and print ads. In addition to claiming “Made in America,” Stihl ran ads stating, “It’s just three words. But they tell you everything you need to know…Not everyone can say them. But we can. MADE IN AMERICA.”Continue Reading In “Made in America” Case NAD Finds That Advertisers Should Not Rely on Disclosures to Cure a False or Misleading Claim

Last week, New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit against the world’s largest beef producer JBS USA Food Company and JBS USA Food Company Holdings (JBS Group). The lawsuit challenges the company’s claim that it will achieve net zero greenhouse emissions by 2040 despite its documented plans to increase production and lack of supporting evidence that the aspirational claim is attainable.

Generally, achieving “net zero” means negating the amount of greenhouse gases produced by activity by reducing emissions and implementing methods of absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere (also known as “offsetting”). According to the complaint, there are no proven agricultural practices that would allow the JBS Group to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to net zero at the company’s current scale, and offsetting the emissions would be a “costly undertaking of unprecedented degree.”Continue Reading New York Attorney General Says JBS Net Zero Claims Are Greenwashing

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) continues to focus its attention on “Made in the USA” claims, and this time the agency has fixed its gaze on a Florida-based company and its principal, whose claims regarding patriotic and Second Amendment-themed gifts were out of bounds.

In a recent complaint, the FTC alleged that the business, ExotoUSA LLC d/b/a/ Old Southern Brass, specifically targeted servicemembers and veterans by falsely stating that Old Southern Brass was a veteran-operated business that donated 10% of all sales to military charities. The FTC also charged that Old Southern Brass falsely represented, through express and implied claims, that all of its products were made in the United States. Statements such as “All of our products are made right here in the United States of America” directly contradicted evidence that many of the company’s products were either wholly imported from China or contained a significant amount of imported content.Continue Reading Made in or Made up? The FTC Closely Reviews “Made in USA” Claims

Last week, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) won a large battle in its extended war with Intuit, the makers of TurboTax tax-preparation software. An administrative law judge (ALJ) issued a lengthy initial decision, ruling that Intuit’s advertisement of a TurboTax offering as “free” was deceptive, ordering Intuit to cease and desist future advertising related

The Federal Trade Commission’s recent settlement with Dalal A. Akoury and AWAREmed Health & Wellness Resource Center provides a good overview of how today’s FTC approaches medical claims it believes are unsubstantiated. The case also serves as a reminder that if medical claims sound too good to be true, they probably are.

According to the complaint, filed by the Justice Department on behalf of the FTC, defendants, under Khoury’s leadership, engaged in deceptive acts or practices in violation of Sections 5 and 12 of the FTC Act and the Opioid Addiction Recovery Fraud Prevention Act (OARFPA). The complaint states that defendants deceived reasonable consumers into believing that the medical clinic’s treatments could cure cancer, chronic diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and a range of addictions, including to opioids, sex, food, and gambling.

The FTC had previously warned defendants on numerous occasions that making unsubstantiated addiction treatment claims is against the law. Khoury and AWAREmed, a set of companies Khoury controls that operate as a medical clinic, apparently ignored such warnings, causing the Justice Department to try and permanently halt defendants’ deceptive advertising and recover civil penalties. With this complaint the FTC continues its aggressive use of the Opioid Act to fill the hole in its remedial authority after AMG.Continue Reading In AWAREmed Settlement FTC Says Opioid and Chronic Disease Ad Claims Must Be Backed by Science

Gather your W-2’s and call your CPAs! Tax season is upon us, and that means one thing for the FTC—another flurry of activity in its ongoing action against Intuit, Inc., one of the largest online tax-filing services. Recently, the FTC issued an order denying complaint counsel’s motion for summary decision in the case, concluding that the matter will proceed to a full evidentiary hearing—the FTC’s administrative version of a trial.

As we previously reported, the FTC initially brought its case against Intuit in March 2022, alleging that the marketing of TurboTax as free was misleading because the free service applies only to those customers filing “simple” tax returns, while the service charges many other customers at the end of the filing process. Two months later, we wrote about the states’ investigation of Intuit, which overlapped with the FTC case, and the resulting $141 million settlement with all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Along with the restitution payment, Intuit was required to cease its “free” advertising campaign as part of the settlement.Continue Reading FTC’s Case Against Intuit Isn’t Won—Yet

Last week, the Federal Trade Commission turned its attention to the mortgage relief industry once again. In its most recent enforcement action, the FTC joined forces for the first time with the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI).

On September 12, 2022, the agencies jointly filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California against several companies alleged to have operated a mortgage relief scam. Two days later, the court issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) appointing a receiver and freezing the defendants’ assets until the parties can be heard on whether to issue a preliminary injunction.

The defendants consist of various corporate entities doing business as Home Matters USA, Academy Home Services, Atlantic Pacific Service Group, and Golden Home Services America, and two individual defendants who own the companies.Continue Reading FTC Joins with California DFPI to Obtain Asset Freeze Against Mortgage Relief Business

By a unanimous 5-0 vote, the Federal Trade Commission last week released a staff report that sheds light on the agency’s enforcement positions and priorities regarding digital “dark patterns,” which the FTC defines as interface designs used to manipulate consumers into making decisions about purchases and personal data that they otherwise would not have.

Stemming from a public workshop the FTC hosted in April 2021, the report, “Bringing Dark Patterns to Light,” uses examples and illustrations to catalog and criticize numerous commonly seen practices in e-commerce, and includes an appendix describing types of dark patterns, while also stressing that dark patterns have a stronger effect, and by extension cause greater consumer harm, when they are used in combination, rather than in isolation.

Given Chair Lina Khan’s ambitious enforcement and policy goals for the agency, which we’ve previously discussed, anyone who engages with consumers online should consider the report both a reference and a warning.  Continue Reading The FTC Brings More Light to Dark Patterns in New Staff Report

Last week the Federal Trade Commission and six states sued rental listing platform Roomster, Corp. along with its owners for allegedly charging consumers for access to phony listings bolstered by fake reviews it had purchased. The agency also announced a separate settlement with the operator of AppWinn, which is an online review vendor that churned and posted thousands of 4- and 5-star fake reviews about Roomster’s platform.

Roomster, which is based in New York, operates a website and mobile app where users pay a fee to access housing, rental, and other living arrangements, such as sublet and roommate requests. According to the complaint, rather than the millions of “authentic” and “verified” listings it purported to offer, Roomster allegedly failed to verify listings or ensure their authenticity, and also used fake reviews to lure users to its platform to pay for access to listings that often turned out to be bogus. The FTC alleges Roomster and its owners made tens of millions of dollars off the backs of mostly low-income and student renters seeking reliable and affordable housing.Continue Reading Rental Review Roundup: FTC Targets Deceptive “Testi-phony-al” Scheme to Lure Renters to Paid Housing Platform

The Federal Trade Commission’s recent action against Credit Karma serves as a reminder to advertisers that optimizing consumer conversion is not—and cannot be—the be-all and end-all. Regardless of what split or A/B testing results show, claims must be truthful, substantiated, and not misleading.

Per the FTC’s administrative complaint, Credit Karma advertised third-party credit offers to Credit Karma members as “pre-approved,” but, in fact, the creditors had not pre-approved the credit offers and consumers were required to apply and go through the creditors’ underwriting process. The FTC’s investigation showed that about one-third of those customers were denied the advertised credit.Continue Reading FTC Action Against Credit Karma Underscores That Conversion Cannot Trump Compliance