In its job of protecting the public from deceptive advertising, the Federal Trade Commission issues “Green Guides.” The commission is now dealing with 60,000 comments [“nearly 60,000 responses to questions it posed”] on its proposed update, reports Valerie Volcovici of Reuters. This will be the fourth revision since the guides began in 1992.
The “Green Guide” advises companies on what terms such as “recyclable,” “organic,” “compostable” actually mean and what they do not.
The guides are not themselves legally binding but can be used as tools if the FTC detects deceptive advertising. Additionally, four states—Maine, Minnesota, New York, and Rhode Island—have incorporated the guides into law to some extent. California allows defendants to use the guides as a “safe harbor”; if they follow them they can avoid liability for deception.
How the guide can be used: In 2022, the Keurig Green Mountain Company settled a class action suit in California for $10 million. It had called its small coffee cups “recyclable.” From the National Law Review:
“The Green Guides state that claims of recyclability should be qualified if recycling facilities are not available to a ‘substantial majority’ of consumers, and that ‘if a product is rendered non-recyclable because of its size or components . . . then labeling the product as recyclable would constitute deceptive marketing.’ Keurig argued that it met the Green Guides standard for qualified claims by putting a notice on its K-Cup packaging that alerted consumers they should ‘check locally’ for relevant recycling facilities.”
That caveat was, apparently, not sufficient to avoid violating the Green Guide so the company settled.
Image of coffee machine is by Dan_Sai and licensed under Creative Commons.