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FTC Increasing Scrutiny of Green Claims, Former Director Says

The Federal Trade Commission is intensifying its scrutiny of marketers’ green claims, according to an attorney and former FTC employee.

In a column for CorporateComplianceInsights.com, Thomas A. Cohn — the former director of the FTC’s Northeast Region and now a partner in law firm LeClairRyan’s Manhattan office — warns that the commission has stepped up its search for “unfair, deceptive or unsubstantiated environmental claims” under the mandate of the FTC Act.

Recent noteworthy targets include unsupported sales claims by replacement-window sellers that their products would cut customers’ energy bills by up to 50 percent, and an FTC consent agreement reached last year with Nonprofit Management LLC and its owner, whom regulators accused of offering a deceptive “Tested Green” environmental certification to any business willing to pay for the honor, Cohn writes.

Cohn says that to avoid such problems, companies need to be clear and specific on green claims, be careful when using ecolabels, and pay close attention to the FTC’s Green Guides when using a green term.

The Guides are currently under revision, but changes have not yet been finalized despite the public comment period having ended over a year ago. The current version of the Guides is here.

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