This week, the FTC announced that Federal-Mogul Motorparts had agreed to settle a complaint alleging that the company made unsubstantiated claims that its aftermarket Wagner OEX brake pads could help a driver stop a vehicle “up to 50 feet sooner” than competing brake pads and, thus, significantly reduce the risks of collision.
The FTC was concerned that the company’s tests “did not simulate testing under ordinary driving conditions.” For example, while an industry standard braking test requires a driver to try to stop a vehicle in “the shortest distance achievable,” Federal-Mogul’s protocol required a driver to applying a “constant and relatively light force” to the brake pedal. That’s not what people do under emergency conditions.
As part of the settlement, Federal-Mogul agreed not to make comparative claims about its brakes’ stopping power or ability to reduce collisions unless it has “competent and reliable scientific evidence” consisting of tests that are “sufficient in quality and quantity based on standards generally accepted by experts in the field of automobile brakes, when considered in light of the entire body of relevant scientific evidence . . . .”
This serves as an important to reminder that you need to think carefully about the tests you use to substantiation your claims. As a general matter, if there is an industry standard case on point, you should use it. Companies that deviate from industry standard tests often have a hard time explaining why their tests are better.
It’s also important to ensure that your tests mirror actual consumer use in the conditions that you advertise. It doesn’t matter that your product performs a certain way in a testing environment, if that environment doesn’t match how consumers use the product or what’s depicted in your ads.