But that fact isn’t so much a problem for the FCC as it is for the company that makes a green claim. The FTC demands that any such claim be backed up by solid research. In cases involving Kmart Corp., Tender Corp., and Dyna-E International, the companies are being taken to task for claiming they sell paper products that are biodegradable.
FTC says it has put out “Green Guides” going all the way back to 1992 which warn that “…unqualified biodegradable claims are acceptable only if they have scientific evidence that their product will completely decompose within a reasonably short period of time under customary methods of disposal.” Kmart and Tender settled with the FTC, while Dyna-E has opted for litigation.
The “Green Guides” help companies focus their environmentally-friendly marketing messages by explaining how common terms like biodegradable and recyclable are understood by the average consumer. The goal is to avoid misleading anybody.
FTC described this situation at a recent congressional hearing, in which it noted that it is also working on guidelines for marketing energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs.
RBR/TVBR observation: As we’ve noted many times before, we do not believe broadcasters are expected to be language police when it comes to advertising messages submitted for airing. However, it is a good idea to protect your audience from misleading messages, and it is an even better idea to head off a client from over-reaching and putting out an ad that may eventually get it in hot water with the FTC.