FTC to Examine Consumer Perception of Environmental Claims/Roundtable Update

In a Federal Register announcement (74 Fed. Reg. 22395-22399), the FTC announced that it plans to conduct a study to examine consumer perception of environmental marketing claims. The study is part of the Commission's regulatory review of the Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims ("Green Guides'' or "Guides'').

Additionally, we are pleased to announce that Leonard Gordon, the Regional Director for the Northeast Region of the Federal Trade Commission is joining the June 4, 2009 Roundtable discussion of Environmental Marketing Law. The Roundtable, presented by the ABA Special Committee for Promotion and Marketing Law, will feature an interactive discussion on the legal issues surrounding the evolving area of environmental marketing, featuring special guests Marla Tepper, General Counsel for the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, Elizabeth Harrington, VP of Strategic Alliance for Greenopia.com, David Mallen, Associate Director of the National Advertising Division, and now Leonard Gordon. The Roundtable, co-sponsored by Andrew Lustigman and his associates is complimentary.

What are the Green Guides?

The Green Guides were issued by the FTC in 1992 and updated in 1996 and 1998, to help marketers avoid making environmental claims that are unfair or deceptive under Section 5 of the FTC Act. Green Guides outline general principles that apply to all environmental marketing claims and then provide guidance on specific green claims, such as biodegradable, compostable, recyclable, recycled content, and ozone safe. The FTC issued the Guides in 1992, and updated them in 1996 and 1998. The Commission currently is reviewing the Guides to potentially address marketplace developments. The Green Guides provide examples of how using particular environmental claims could conform or run afoul of the FTC Act. In particular, the Green Guides discourage use of broad unqualified statements such as environmentally friendly, eco-friendly, sustainable.

The FTC's intent to study consumer perception of environmentally friendly claims indicates that the FTC is looking at potential significant revisions to the existing guidance. Indeed, the proposed changes to the Testimonial and Endorsement Guides were predicated on a study of consumer perception.

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