Last week the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a press release stating that it “is putting hundreds of advertisers on notice that they should avoid deceiving consumers with advertisements that make product claims that cannot be backed up or substantiated” and that “it will not hesitate to use its authority to target violators with large civil penalties.” The FTC’s letter and accompanying Notice, sent to approximately 670 companies that market OTC drugs, homeopathic products, dietary supplements, or functional foods, is meant to serve as a reminder for having a reasonable basis to support product claims and as a deterrent for making deceptive claims.

The accompanying Notice of Penalty Offenses Concerning Substantiation of Product Claims is short, containing just five bullet points of what the FTC considers to be unlawful advertising practices under Section 5(a)(1) of the Federal Trade Commission Act. In summary, the Notice outlines the requirements of: (1) having a reasonable basis, including competent and reliable evidence, for objective product claims; (2) possessing competent and reliable scientific evidence to support claims relating to the health benefits or safety features of a product; (3) having a sufficient human clinical trial when representing that a product is effective in the cure, mitigation, or treatment of any serious disease, (4) not misrepresenting the level or type of substantiation for a claim; and (5) not misrepresenting that a product claim has been scientifically or clinically proven.

More information regarding the Notice and the FTC’s enforcement of penalty offenses is available on the FTC’s website.