In a post this week, the FTC’s Business Center Blog addressed the whys, wheres and wherefores of FTC Staff Closing Letters. What triggered the BCP post? Hard to say. But the post provides a concise summary of what they are (“exactly what they say they are”) and their narrow purpose: they announce the closure of an investigation but the closure is not binding on the Commission and the FTC can take further action in a particular matter, as necessary. (A hint that something previously closed is about to be re-opened? We shall see.)
As an ad lawyer, I regularly take a look at them (I even have an auto-reminder set in my calendar) to get a feel for what’s on the FTC staff’s mind, what they’re looking at, how they’re approaching issues and whether there’s a particularly juicy tidbit to inform my client counseling. Although many of the Staff Closing Letters over the last couple of years have concerned Made in US claims, such claims are not the only ones addressed in the letters. For example, the FTC Staff Closing Letter to Yotpo was very informative about issues related to customer reviews and FTC’s current concerns about how such reviews are collected and managed by marketers and their vendors. There have also been letters addressing substantiation issues, attorney advertising, the veracity of claims relating to humane animal treatment and more.
A special section of the FTC Staff Closing Letters also addresses, specifically, investigations resulting from NAD (and other BBB National Program) referrals. While it’s likely that there’s more going on behind the scenes when the case is referred by NAD than what’s captured in the closing letter itself, these closing letters do provide useful information to ad lawyers counseling about the risks and implications of an FTC referral.
(Description of graphic for visually impaired readers: drawing of old-fashioned quill pen, ink pot and paper.)