The FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection protects consumers against unfair, deceptive, or fraudulent practices. The Bureau enforces a variety of consumer protection laws enacted by Congress, as well as trade regulation rules issued by the Commission. Its actions include individual company and industry-wide investigations, administrative and federal court litigation, rule-making proceedings, and consumer and business education. In addition, the Bureau contributes to the Commission’s on-going ef-forts to inform Congress and other government entities of the impact that proposed actions could have on consumers. The Bureau of Consumer Protection is divided into six divisions and programs, each with its own areas of expertise. One of the divisions is the Division of Advertising Practices.
Within the Bureau of Consumer Protection is the Division of Advertising Practices and the Division of Enforcement. These entities are the nation’s enforcers of federal truth-in-advertising laws. The FTC Act prohibits unfair or deceptive advertising in any medium. That is, advertising must tell the truth and not mislead consumers. A claim can be misleading if relevant information is left out or if the claim implies something that is not true. In addition, claims must be substantiated especially when they concern health, safety, or performance. The type of evidence may depend on the product, the claims, and what experts believe necessary. Sellers are responsible for claims they make about their products and services. Third parties such as advertising agencies or website designers and catalog marketers also may be liable for making or disseminating deceptive representations if they participate in the preparation or distribution of the advertising or know about the deceptive claims.
The Division of Advertising Practices focuses its enforcement activities on claims for foods, drugs, dietary supplements, and other products promising health benefits; health fraud on the Internet; weight-loss advertising and marketing directed to children; performance claims for computers, ISPs and other high-tech products and services; tobacco and alcohol advertising; protecting children’s privacy online; claims about product performance made in national or regional newspapers and magazines; in radio and TV commercials, including infomercials; through direct mail to consumers; or on the Internet.