The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) just released its agenda for its September 15th workshop, “Putting Disclosures to the Test,” a full-day event aimed at improving the testing of disclosures by industry, academics, and the FTC.
The workshop will review testing methodologies and examine how consumers perceive disclosures. Information will also be presented on how to test disclosure effectiveness and what types of testing are most appropriate for a given disclosure type or medium. There will also be discussion on the costs and benefits of disclosure testing.
The full agenda can be viewed here.
Everyone, other than someone who recently arrived back from Mars, should expect that the workshop discussion is likely to spell more bad news for the lowly disclosure. As we have blogged previously (here and here), the FTC has had its eye on the disclosure and has advocated the use of fewer disclosures and making those disclosures that are used more prominent.
Of course, getting information from consumers through surveys can be a good thing. (Though in at least two of the three instances cited below the result was the agency tightening and not loosening its standards.) The FTC has previously commissioned studies to understand how consumers perceive certain types of claims. In 2012, the FTC released the results of a study it commissioned on “up-to” claims. That study indicated that consumers believe such claims to mean that most consumers would enjoy the maximum benefit under normal circumstances. And in 2009 the FTC commissioned a study on how consumers perceive and understand environmental claims. The Commission relied on the results of that study, as well as information from three public workshops, in updating its Green Guides. And back in 1995, the FTC commissioned a survey related to “Made in USA” claims which informed how the agency chooses to approach that topic.
It will be interesting to see what conclusions are drawn and recommendations made, as well as how industry responds. As anyone who has ever dealt with surveys at the NAD, in Court, or even at the FTC, knows, surveys are as much art as science and frequently subjected to criticism and second guessing with respect to methodology. Stay tuned.
The workshop will take place at the FTC’s Constitution Center auditorium, located at 400 7th St., SW, Washington, DC, and is free and open to the public. It will begin at 9 a.m. and conclude at 5:30 p.m. If you can’t make it to DC, stay tuned for one or more blogs on the workshop here.