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The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said that it "is putting hundreds of advertisers on notice that they should avoid deceiving consumers with advertisements that make product claims that cannot be backed up or substantiated. In notices sent to the companies, the FTC warned that it will not hesitate to use its authority to target violators with large civil penalties."

These penalties could be as high as $50,000 per offense.  More than 670 companies reportedly have been put on notice.

The FTC pointed out that under the law, "companies must back up claims about what their product can do with reliable evidence. If a company makes a claim about the health or safety benefits of a product, that claim must be based on scientific evidence. If a company claims that its product can cure, mitigate, or treat a serious disease such as cancer or heart disease, it must back up that claim through the accepted standards of scientific testing … While the FTC has long history of providing guidance on advertising substantiation, through both litigated cases and policy statements, many sellers continue to make unsubstantiated claims about their products and false claims about the proof they have. Consequently, the FTC is now using its penalty offense authority to remind advertisers of the legal requirement to have a reasonable basis to support objective product claims and to deter them from making deceptive claims in the future.

“The requirement for advertisers to have adequate support for their advertising claims at the time they’re made is a bedrock principle of FTC law,” said Sam Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The prospect of steep civil penalties will help ensure that advertisers don’t play fast and loose with the truth.”

KC's View:

You'd think that accurate advertising and telling the truth would be a baseline value for companies.  But, alas, it is not.  And for the moment, at least, the FTC seems energized and in a take-no-prisoners mode.