In the midst of the eerie quiet that has descended over much of Washington this week, amid the dark and largely shuddered windows of the Federal Trade Commission, the friends of advertising self-regulation gathered together in peace and harmony.  September 30 marked the beginning of the Advertising Self-Regulatory Council’s (ASRC) annual conference in New York City.  The conference itself is divided into three subsections; National Advertising Division (NAD), Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) and Electronic Retailing Self-Regulation Program (ERSP).  On September 30 and October 1 NAD held its sessions while the Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) sessions took place on October 2.  The conference wraps up with the ERSP summit on October 3.

The conference agenda is full of the usual suspects:  Hot Topics, Year in Review, and various presentations involving key members of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC or the Commission).  Jessica Rich, Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection, presented the conference’s Key Note Address.  Lesley Fair, Senior Attorney, Division of Consumer and Business Education at the FTC, spoke on a panel entitled “FTC Update: Enforcement Priority and Key Cases.” Kandi Parsons conducted a “Fireside Chat with the FTC” to discuss issues related to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which we’ve blogged about here.  This is no surprise given the ongoing and longstanding relationship between the ASRC and the FTC, including referral of matters from the self-regulating body to the Commission.

One of the more interesting tidbits to come out of the conference so far is ASRC’s goal of educating other agencies about the work and mission of the Council.  ASRC President. C. Lee Peeler said during an interview at the conference with Law360 that the Council is in the process of discussing its work with other federal regulatory agencies that may have the authority to pursue those who engage in unfair or deceptive advertising.  Specifically, Peeler stated that the ASRC has “been making a real effort to make sure that other agencies like the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency are aware of what we do and how we do it because if they have concerns about advertising, just as our role helps the FTC conserve resources, our role can help them.”  

Apparently members of ASRC have already held meetings with folks at both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to start talking shop.  Peeler noted that the meetings were meant to introduce ASRC, describe what it does, and explain how it helps “keep advertising truthful.”  The goal, it seems, is for the ASRC and multiple federal agencies to provide mutual assistance to one another in an effort to keep advertising on the straight and narrow.  If the Council ultimately refers a case to one of the agencies, Peeler believes it’s important for the agency to understand who the source of the referral really is. 

Peeler was quick to note, however, that the Council intends on remaining an independent self-regulating body and has no plans to enter into any formal relationships with the federal government.  Peeler also acknowledged that ASRC has yet to refer any cases to FDA or EPA, but noted that cases related to labeling claims might be appropriate for FDA referral, while cases covered by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act might be appropriate for referral to the EPA.