FTC Proposes Revisions To Its Guides For Environmental Marketing Claims

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On October 6, 2010, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) published proposed revisions to its Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims (the “Green Guides”).1 The Green Guides, which apply to marketing directed at both consumers and business, were last updated in 1998 and have become outdated as companies have increased the nature and frequency of environmental marketing claims. The FTC is seeking public comment on the proposed revisions until December 10, 2010, after which it will finalize the updated Green Guides....

The proposed revisions maintain the Green Guides’ focus on helping marketers to avoid false and deceptive environmental marketing claims. They seek to improve upon the current Green Guides’ instructions for use of environmental terms common in 1998, for example, “biodegradable,” “recyclable,” and “ozone safe.” In addition, the proposed revisions address more recently adopted environmental terms that are prevalent today, such as “renewable energy,” “renewable materials,” and “carbon offsets.” The FTC explicitly declined to have the Green Guides address certain other forms of environmental marketing, including “sustainable,” “natural,” and “organic” claims.

While the Green Guides do not serve as law, they offer meaningful insight into the FTC’s view of the law and provide a basis under the FTC Act for future FTC enforcement. In the past year, the FTC has increased enforcement based on the current Green Guides, bringing seven actions against companies alleged to have made deceptive or unsubstantiated environmental claims. The FTC very likely will continue enforcement of environmental claims once the revised Green Guides become final. As a result, the proposed revisions to the Green Guides provide sound guidance for marketers seeking to implement best practices with regard to environmental claims.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati | Attorney Advertising

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