As some of you may know, FTC investigations are commonplace in the consumer product industry. What you may not know, is complaints by consumers that the product did not perform as expected are oftentimes the trigger for these investigations. Most recently in the hot seat, Wacoal America, Inc. and its caffeine-infused underwear, iPant. The iPant promised that the caffeine would pass through the skin leaving users with lasting slimming results. The FTC found the product claims to be unsubstantiated. Not only will Wacoal pay over one million dollars in consumer refunds, but they have become the butt of many coffee-related jokes.
Although many companies make an effort to play by the rules, some have no reason to. Selling for up to $80.00 each, Wacoal likely still came out on top financially; despite the fines. However, this is not the case for all. Some companies cannot afford the risk of walking the fine line between clever and deceptive advertising. So what do you do? We advise that you keep your potential enemy close – when in doubt, get an advisory opinion from the FTC.
The FTC provides opinions to companies and industry organizations on a vast array of issues, including product claims. Although they are only “advisory,” and not binding on the FTC, the opinions provide insight as to whether your proposed practices or claims may lead to consumer complaints and an FTC investigation down the road. The bottom line is, it could save you a lot of money in the end to ask for a little guidance in the beginning.
The FTC attorneys only consider the facts presented to them in your inquiry. This means that it is critical to include all of the relevant rules and regulations, as well as all of the facts. Digital Law Group can help you determine what issues to present to the FTC, draft your inquiry letter and evaluate the issued opinion.