Last week, the FTC issued its Fiscal Year 2018 Agency Financial Report. The report discusses the FTC's finances, highlights its accomplishments, and discusses its enforcement priorities, which (on the advertising side) include fraud, emerging technology, new advertising formats, online reviews, native advertising, health claims, and green claims. Here are some of highlights of the report.
In a message from FTC Chairman Joseph J. Simons included in the report, he said, "The FTC's consumer protection enforcement initiatives are primarily focused on addressing trends in the marketplace that cause harm to consumers: stopping fraud targeting specific populations, protecting consumers from deceptive or unfair practices in the financial marketplace, safeguarding consumers' privacy and data security, and prosecuting deceptive marketing and advertising claims."
In the report, the FTC said that it will "continue its enforcement efforts to stop fraud, focusing on those instances that cause or are likely to cause the greatest consumer harm." The report pointed to impostor scams, business and income opportunity scams, and frauds targeting specific populations, including military consumers, seniors, non-English speaking consumers, small businesses, and consumers in financial distress. In addition, the FTC said that it will continue to closely coordinate with other federal agencies to ensure that consumers are protected in the financial marketplace.
The FTC also said that it will focus on consumer protection efforts related to "the use of emerging technology, including a careful consideration of the costs and benefits of new business practices and the importance of fostering innovation"
The FTC also explained that it will take enforcement action against deceptive advertising that appears in new formats and new media, such as apps, games, streaming videos, and social networks. In addition, the FTC said it will evaluate the use of online reviews, the use of fabricated reviews, undisclosed material connections with reviewers, prohibitions on negative reviews, and unsubstantiated testimonials, and take action as appropriate.
The FTC also said, "Companies are increasingly blending advertising with news, entertainment, or editorial content in digital media. If consumers do not recognize and understand the difference between advertising and other content, they may be deceived." As a result, the FTC said it will continue to examine consumer protection issues raised by sponsored content, native advertising, and endorsements.
The FTC said that it will continue to go after the deceptive advertising of health products, including homeopathic products and dietary supplements. The FTC explained that it plans to focus on disease prevention and treatment claims, claims aimed at vulnerable audiences, and claims exploiting emerging health threats.
Finally, the FTC said it will continue to focus its enforcement efforts on misleading environmental marketing claims.
It sounds like we're going to be hearing a lot from the FTC in the coming year!
"Stopping fraud against consumers is at the heart of the FTC's mission" -- FTC Chairman Joseph J. Simons