This past week, several consumer actions made headlines that affect the retail industry.
Stem Cell Therapy Clinic Agrees to Stop Deceptive Advertising
The FTC has settled charges against Regenerative Medical Group, Telehealth Medical Group, and their California-based owner over a lack of scientific evidence that their “amniotic stem cell therapy” can treat a range of serious diseases, including Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy and autism. The settlement imposes a $3.31 million judgment, requires the defendants to notify current and former patients about its terms, and prohibits the defendants from making these and other health claims in the future unless supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence.
FTC Halts Deceptive Advertising by D.C.-Area Car Dealerships
The FTC has settled charges against D.C.-area car dealerships and a California-based marketing firm who mailed over 21,000 fake “urgent recall” notices to consumers in an effort to lure visitors to the dealerships. The settlement permanently bars the defendants from misrepresenting (1) whether any motor vehicle is subject to an open safety recall or service campaign, and (2) certain other material facts about motor vehicles.
FTC Repeals the Picture Tube Rule
The FTC authorized publication of a final notice repealing the longstanding Picture Tube Rule (“the Rule”). Issued in 1966, the Rule requires marketers to base any screen size representation on the horizontal measurement of the actual, viewable picture area unless the marketer discloses its alternative method of measurement. After taking public comment, the FTC determined that the Rule no longer is necessary to prevent deceptive claims regarding the size of television screens or to encourage uniformity and accuracy in their marketing.
FTC Announces Interactive Online Features, Data Spotlight Report
In an effort to make its data more accessible, the FTC has announced plans to release aggregated consumer complaint data on a quarterly, rather than an annual, basis in a new interactive online format. The data will be accompanied by a Consumer Protection Data Spotlight report, which will highlight important stories and trends emerging from the consumer data. The first such report focuses on imposter scams and imposters’ increasing demands to be paid with gift cards.
NAD Takes Issue with AT&T’s “More for Your Thing” Campaign
The NAD has recommended that AT&T modify or discontinue certain claims made in its “More for Your Thing” advertising campaign. The NAD determined that certain statements conveyed a comparative message regarding AT&T’s entertainment, internet and data plans versus those of its competitors. AT&T has stated its intent to appeal the NAD’s findings to the National Advertising Review Board (“NARB”).
NAD Finds That Comcast Was Not-So-Direct About DirecTV’s Offerings
The NAD has recommended that Comcast discontinue certain claims about DirecTV’s reliability and offerings. The NAD found that several of Comcast’s messages were unsubstantiated, including statements about the probability and duration of weather-related DirecTV outages, and about DirecTV’s offerings of free shows or movies on the go. Both Comcast and DirecTV have stated their intent to appeal aspects of the NAD’s findings to the NARB.