by Leonard A. Bellavia, Esq.
“Green Guides” address claims made by marketers of products’ environmental attributes. It is important that businesses that are regulated by the FTC are aware of the Green Guides and take them into consideration when creating and placing your advertisements. The Green Guides are not new laws or rules created by the FTC. Rather, the Green Guides outline what kinds of additional trade practices the FTC considers deceptive and/or unfair under Section 5 of the FTC Act.
Advertisements that fall within the Green Guides include claims made about products’ environmental attributes or claims made regarding your business’ sustainable business practices or certifications such as “LEED” (or Leadership in Engineering and Environmental Design). Sustainable business practices include recycling initiatives, reductions in water and energy consumption, and utilizing renewable energy like solar and wind. Generally, the FTC considers broad, unqualified general environmental claims like “green” or “eco friendly” unfair and deceptive trade practices. To avoid claims that an advertisement is unfair or deceptive advertisements claiming a product is “eco friendly,” for example, will need further disclosure of specific environmental benefits that are clear, prominent and specific. Statements made regarding your business’ sustainability practices or certifications also trigger compliance with the Green Guides. If your business has received certifications or “seals of approval” for sustainable practices or for the property, and you chose to advertise such certifications or seals of approval, the FTC may consider such advertisements endorsements, thus requiring additional disclosure. Businesses will need to disclose any material relationship between the business and the organizations granting the certifications or seals, and disclose the basis for the certifications.
The FTC has demonstrated it is willing to actively pursue claims under Section 5 of the FTC Act against businesses that engage in unfair and deceptive trade practices even when consumers do not initiate complaints against the businesses. The FTC’s recent enforcement action against dealerships advertising negative equity claims is one example of this trend.
You should consult the Green Guides to see whether the FTC may consider your current advertisements unfair or deceptive. If you have any questions about this or any other advertising regulations, please call us at 631-224-7000.