Intuit, Inc. certainly had a disparate week in the world of advertising, with the high of sponsoring the AFC and NFC championship games and the low of an order finding that it had engaged in deceptive advertising. Just a few days prior to today’s football games, for which Intuit was the presenting sponsor again, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued an opinion finding that Intuit violated Section 5 of the FTC Act related to its advertising of its popular TurboTax tax filing software. Specifically, the FTC found that Intuit deceived consumers when it ran ads for “free” tax products and services even though many consumers were not eligible for the products and services, which the FTC found warranted the issuance of a cease-and-desist order.

As summarized in the FTC’s press release, the FTC’s cease-and-desist order requires Intuit do the following:

  • cease making the deceptive claims at issue;
  • refrain from advertising or marketing that any good or service is free unless it is free for all consumers or it discloses clearly and conspicuously and in close proximity the percentage of taxpayers or consumers that qualify for the free product or service (or alternatively, disclose that a majority of consumers do not qualify);
  • disclose clearly and conspicuously all of the terms, conditions, and obligations that are required in order to obtain the free good or service; and
  • refrain from misrepresenting any material facts about its products and services.

Other requirements—related to acknowledging the order, providing compliance reports, creating records, and engaging in compliance monitoring—are set forth in the FTC’s final order. The order will be effective 60 days after service and will remain in effect for 20 years.