Sound the alarms! The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is cracking down on advertisers trying to pull the wool over your eyes with false or unsupported claims about their products. In April of 2023, the FTC sent notices to about 670 companies that market over-the-counter drugs, homeopathic products, dietary supplements, or functional foods (think fortified cereals) – making one thing crystal clear: questionable advertising doesn’t fly.
In this blog, we dig deeper into this recent flare-up of enforcement and why it’s important to consumers. We’ll explain what you can and can’t say as a business – and why we play by the rules in the game of advertising.
Deceptive Advertising: The Importance of Health Claims and the FTC
The first round of these notices went to companies making – or likely to make – health claims about their products. If a company received one of these notices, it doesn’t necessarily mean they participated in deceptive practices or violated any laws, but it does mean the FTC is ensuring everyone knows the rules about health claims. So what are “health claims” anyway…and why do they matter so much?
Let’s say you own a bakery and you make cookies. These cookies have awesome, healthy ingredients – people genuinely love them. You sell out every day, and people are even placing pre-orders. You’re making a lot of money, and it’s excellent!
You now have enough money to invest in packaging to share them with the rest of the country (your aunt in California has already ordered seven boxes). When making the packaging, you use the words “organic cookies”. You know most of the ingredients are organic, so that makes sense. And you like the idea of adding “#1 cookie in the nation” at the top – they will be soon, anyway!
Full stop. We hate to break it to you: those are both big no-nos, according to the FTC. You need documentation to back up these claims. Not to mention, when using the word “organic”, you have to be extra careful. ALL ingredients have to be organic to call them “organic cookies”. The USDA may also get involved with this one!
From a business perspective, there’s also the daunting reality of what the FTC can do to your company if you continue to make false or misleading claims about your products. For example: for repeat offenders, the FTC has won settlements in the millions through legal action as well as imposed lifetime bans in the industry (this specific case happened in the diet pill industry).
At Life’s Abundance, we want to stay in business and provide your family with healthy home essentials and pet products for many years into the future – it’s part of our purpose. So we don’t mess around when it comes to the FTC and their overwhelming authority. Between the fines and bad PR mentioned above, the FTC obviously means business!
Why does the FTC get involved with marketing?
Now you know a company can’t just boldly declare their miracle product will cure your stress, improve your heart function, or even give you a good night’s rest. But why does the FTC care so much?
The FTC insists that any claims of curing, mitigating, or treating illnesses like this must meet the rigorous standards of scientific testing. You can forget about cutting corners when it comes to more serious diseases like cancer or heart disease. A violation of this rule can cost you up to $51,000. These significant fines from the FTC are meant to prevent people from taking a new, over-the-counter drug that says it helps cure heart disease – when it doesn’t. As you can imagine, these unfounded health claims can have major life-changing effects.
It should be repeated: if you’re going to claim your product’s health benefits, you better have solid, scientific proof – not just wishful thinking.
The FTC is serious about keeping advertisers honest. So, dear businesses, take heed! The FTC aims to help consumers trust what they see and hear on the shelves, online, or anywhere product advertisements live.
Following FTC Guidelines
While FTC cases with pet foods or skin care are less high-profile than some of the diet pill fiascoes, the FTC’s guidelines still apply to companies like Life’s Abundance. We know this, and we understand it deeply – so much so that we have a compliance team to research and help us talk about our products without straying from the truth. Everyone should want to stay on the good side of the FTC!
Every bag, pouch, or bottle you receive from us has approved claims on it. For example, some of the ingredients in our skincare products are organic, but not all. Therefore, we only say “made with organic ingredients”, rather than “organic moisturizer”.
There are a couple of reasons for this: (1) This is the truth, and we don’t want to mislead anyone into thinking every ingredient in the product is organic, and 2) we make decisions based on the long-term good of the company and customers. Playing fast and loose with the rules is a surefire way to undermine this goal.
The Do’s of Making Health Claims
With all this info on what you CAN’T say – let’s talk about what we CAN say. Once we pull the curtain back on this, you’ll totally understand.
For a pet owner, it’s important to have pet foods with vitamins and minerals. Maybe you’re unsure why, but you’ve heard it before, and your vet even recommends it. So you go shopping (online has more options, probably!). You find what looks like a reputable company, the ingredient list looks solid, and the product description reads:
“Pet food fortified with vitamins and minerals may contribute to improved nutrient absorption in pets. The presence of these essential nutrients has benefits for your pet’s overall health and well-being.”
Notice that no words imply this food will cure or treat any disease – because that’s probably not true. But also, it’s very general when talking about the overall health benefits to your pet. Plus, we’re willing to bet there’s research to back these claims up in that company’s ever-growing FTC filing system. (Just ask our Compliance Department!)
This is the type of claim the FTC is looking for. It keeps everyone honest, and most importantly, you’re not being misled about what this product can or can’t do. Plus, now you know vitamins and minerals can help improve your pet’s overall health – and that’s a true statement, approved by the FTC.
Our Commitment to Transparency
At Life’s Abundance, we believe transparency is key to ensuring you have the best products you can get – for a long time to come. That’s why we ensure we’re up-to-date on all things FDA, FTC, and USDA (we could also insert any other number of the regulators we work with!).
With the FTC’s regulations clearly on our radar, we feel super confident in our marketing by providing you with a fluff- and gimmick-free shopping experience. We strive to put in the time and work required to be honest and reliable because your family deserves healthy products – and you deserve to feel confident with what you’re bringing into your home!