When hoping to resolve advertising concerns or disputes quickly and easily, companies should not only consider utilizing the National Advertising Division (“NAD”), but also the potentially lesser-known Electronic Retailing Self-Regulation Program (“ERSP”). ESRP is a self-regulatory program administrated for the Advertising Self-Regulatory Council (“ASRC”) by the Council of Better Business Bureaus. The program was established in 2004 and its mission is “to enhance consumer confidence in electronic retailing by providing a quick and effective mechanism for resolving inquiries regarding the truthfulness and accuracy of claims in direct response advertising.”
Like actions before the NAD, ERSP actions provide guidance regarding certain advertisements. ERSP is focused on reviewing direct-to-consumer advertising campaigns—largely infomercials but also radio ads, internet marketing efforts, TV shopping channel marketing, and pop-up advertising—for substantiation of claims, with the goal of preventing continued dissemination of deceptive claims. ERSP members, as well as consumer or advocacy groups, can refer campaigns to ERSP for review, and ERSP reviews approximately 7-10 per month. After review, ERSP may recommend that marketers discontinue making certain claims and may even alert the Federal Trade Commission about non-compliant companies. ERSP reports that it has worked with companies to modify or discontinue use of almost 200 advertisements.