Investigations and enforcement actions over marketing and advertising claims related to health products and services have been a significant part of the Bureau's recent fair-business-practices work. In addition to the steps taken against Lululemon described above, in the past three years the Bureau has announced numerous specific actions relating to misleading health claims, including in connection with UV protective clothing, "light" and "mild" cigarettes, nutrition information software, diabetes "cures," tanning-studio health claims, fitness club services, diet patches, herbal products, weight-loss programs and bogus cancer-therapy clinics.
The Bureau's focus on false or misleading health claims extends also to claims related to the environment. According to a recent survey of environmental claims undertaken by a Canadian environmental marketing firm (which information has also caught the eye of the Bureau), the use of environmental claims is now pervasive across product categories. The majority (57%) of the environmental claims examined in the survey reportedly failed to disclose attributes of the product relevant to (potentially negative) environmental effects; 26% of claims could not be substantiated by accessible information or third-party certification; 11% were deemed by the survey authors to be vague (e.g., claims of "all-natural"); and 5% were judged irrelevant (e.g. "CFC-free" oven cleaner, when CFCs are banned) and/or meant to distract from a more significant (negative) product feature (e.g., "organic" cigarettes).
In March, 2007, the Bureau issued for public comment new draft guidance on environmental claims. Based on the draft document, the Bureau may be preparing to take a rigid stance on certain types of environmental claims. For example, in the draft document: (i) claims that a product is "free" of a substance may not be made when historically the product has never contained that substance; (ii) verification materials related to environmental claims must be available to both purchasers and potential purchasers, with no qualification related to confidential information; and (iii) consumers are misled if an explanatory statement for an environmental claim on a product is not displayed on the same display panel as the claim itself.