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FTC Warns Media To Monitor Fake Ad Claims

A member of the Federal Trade Commission today warned media companies to crack down on running ads by makers of vitamin supplements and weight loss products that carry flagrantly dubious claims.

"There is nothing in the FTC act that prevents us [from going after media companies]," said Sheila Anthony, a Democrat serving on the five-member commission. "We are looking at all advertising and where it is running."

Ms. Anthony made her remarks today during a speech at a conference of the Food and Drug Law Institute. She said that while the FTC has already gone after marketers, endorsers and advertising agencies that have made some of the fraudulent claims, media companies that run the ads could be the FTC's next target.

Ms. Anthony made it clear that while the FTC would much prefer media companies to act voluntarily to screen the ads, she said previous attempts to get them to do so have been unsuccessful. She said newspaper and magazine publishers, radio broadcasters and direct mailers need to follow the lead of TV networks in reviewing the content of advertising or they could face charges of being in violation of federal consumer protection laws.

The FTC has taken action against shopping channels before, but Ms. Anthony's comments were clearly aimed at broader media, with caricatures of major magazines and newspapers shown in a slide accompanying her talk.

Ms. Anthony said the FTC in some cases has been having trouble tracking down foreign marketers behind the ads.

"We are seeing questionable claims everywhere we turn," she said. "I hope media steps up to the plate."


Ira Teinowitz, AdAge.com. April 16, 2002

Copyright © 2002 Crain Communications, Inc.. All rights reserved.