Monday, November 26, 2012

‘Eco-Friendly’ Claims Found Not to be So Green After All

By Erika Brown Lee 



On November 19, 2012, the National Advertising Division declared that GreenPan, maker of non-stick cookware, should either change or discontinue advertising its products as “eco-friendly.” See NAD Recommendation.
The National Advertising Division, which is part of the self-regulatory system administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus, issued a case report and press release in response to a complaint filed by DuPont, which manufacturers Teflon® products.

As we previously wrote in an earlier post regarding the Federal Trade Commission’s revised Green Guides, the FTC has raised the level of scrutiny on what it terms “unqualified general environmental benefit claims” such as 'Eco-friendly,' and recommends that marketers take several steps to avoid misleading advertisements.

In its complaint to the NAD, DuPont claimed GreenPan’s statements about the composition of its products conveyed unsubstantiated superiority of GreenPan products in comparison to DuPont cookware.

DuPont uses a coating system containing polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), which historically contained perflurooctanoic acid (PFOA).

However, DuPont has committed to eliminating PFOA entirely from its process and no longer uses it for its cookware coatings.

In contrast, GreenPan employs a different coating technology called Thermolon. NAD noted that GreenPan ads stated that all PTFE non-stick coatings were made with PFOA and were unsafe, and that GreenPan’s Thermolon coating was safer and healthier than all PTFE products.

NAD determined that GreenPan messages concerning all PTFE products were unsupported, as were its claims that Thermolon-coated products were better for the environment and safer than all PTFE products. 

NAD recommended that while GreenPan could advertise its products as “PFOA-free” or “PTFE-free,” GreenPan should discontinue its superiority and eco-friendly claims.

The NAD decision, which requires voluntary adherence to its recommendations, also directed GreenPan to follow FTC guidelines in developing future marketing statements with regard to the recyclability of its product packaging.

GreenPan could appeal the NAD’s decision to the National Advertising Review Council. The NAD could refer any non-compliance with its recommendations to the FTC.

Source: Council of Better Business

This article was prepared by Erika Brown Lee (ebrownlee@fulbright.com / 202 662 0398) of Fulbright’s Privacy, Competition and Data Protection Practice and Health Care Practice.