16 CFR § 255.3 - Expert endorsements.

§ 255.3 Expert endorsements.

(a) Whenever an advertisement represents, expressly or by implication, that the endorser is an expert with respect to the endorsement message, then the endorser's qualifications must in fact give the endorser the expertise that the endorser is represented as possessing with respect to the endorsement.

(b) Although an expert may, in endorsing a product, take into account factors not within the endorser's expertise (such as taste or price), the endorsement must be supported by an actual exercise of the expertise that the expert is represented as possessing in evaluating product features or characteristics which are relevant to an ordinary consumer's use of or experience with the product. This evaluation must have included an examination or testing of the product at least as extensive as someone with the same degree of represented expertise would normally need to conduct in order to support the conclusions presented in the endorsement. To the extent that the advertisement implies that the endorsement was based upon a comparison to another product or other products, such comparison must have been included in the expert's evaluation; and as a result of such comparison, the expert must have concluded that, with respect to those features on which the endorser is represented to be an expert and which are relevant and available to an ordinary consumer, the endorsed product is at least equal overall to the competitors' products. Moreover, where the net impression created by the endorsement is that the advertised product is superior to other products with respect to any such feature or features, then the expert must in fact have found such superiority. (See § 255.1(e) regarding the liability of endorsers.)

(c) Examples:

(1) Example 1. An endorsement of a particular automobile by one described as an “engineer” implies that the endorser's professional training and experience are such that the endorser is well acquainted with the design and performance of automobiles. If the endorser's field is, for example, chemical engineering, the endorsement would be deceptive.

(2) Example 2. An endorser of a hearing aid is simply referred to as a doctor during the course of an advertisement. The ad likely implies that the endorser has expertise in the area of hearing, as would be the case if the endorser is a medical doctor with substantial experience in audiology or a non-medical doctor with a Ph.D. or Au.D. in audiology. A doctor without substantial experience in the area of hearing might be able to endorse the product if the advertisement clearly and conspicuously discloses the nature and limits of the endorser's expertise.

(3) Example 3. A manufacturer of automobile parts advertises that its products are approved by the “American Institute of Science.” From its name, consumers would infer that the “American Institute of Science” is a bona fide independent testing organization with expertise in judging automobile parts and that, as such, it would not approve any automobile part without first testing its performance by means of valid scientific methods. If the American Institute of Science is not such a bona fide independent testing organization (e.g., if it was established and operated by an automotive parts manufacturer), the endorsement would be deceptive. Even if the American Institute of Science is an independent bona fide expert testing organization, the endorsement may nevertheless be deceptive unless the Institute has conducted valid scientific tests of the advertised products and the test results support the endorsement message.

(4) Example 4. A manufacturer of a non-prescription drug product represents that its product has been selected over competing products by a large metropolitan hospital. The hospital has selected the product because the manufacturer, unlike its competitors, has packaged each dose of the product separately. This package form is not generally available to the public. Under the circumstances, the endorsement would be deceptive because the basis for the hospital's choice—convenience of packaging—is neither relevant nor available to consumers, and the basis for the hospital's decision is not disclosed to consumers.

(5) Example 5. A person who is identified as the president of a commercial “home cleaning service” states in a television advertisement for a particular brand of cleanser that the service uses that brand instead of its leading competitors because of its performance. Because cleaning services extensively use cleansers in the course of their business, the ad likely conveys that the president has knowledge superior to that of ordinary consumers. Accordingly, the president's statement will be deemed to be an expert endorsement. The service must, of course, actually use the endorsed cleanser. In addition, because the advertisement implies that the cleaning service has experience with a reasonable number of leading competitors' brands available to consumers, the service must, in fact, have such experience, and have determined, based on its expertise, that the endorsed product's cleaning ability is at least equal (or superior, if such is the net impression conveyed by the advertisement) to that of the leading competitors' products available to consumers. Because in this example the cleaning service's president makes no mention that the endorsed cleanser was “chosen,” “selected,” or otherwise evaluated in side-by-side comparisons against its competitors, it is sufficient if the service has relied solely upon its accumulated experience in evaluating cleansers without having performed side-by-side or scientific comparisons.

(6) Example 6. A medical doctor states in an advertisement for a drug that the product will safely allow consumers to lower their cholesterol by 50 points. If the materials the doctor reviewed were merely letters from satisfied consumers or the results of a rodent study, the endorsement would likely be deceptive because those materials are not the type of scientific evidence that others with the represented degree of expertise would consider adequate to support this conclusion about the product's safety and efficacy. Under such circumstances, both the advertiser and the doctor would be liable for the doctor's misleading representation. (See § 255.1(d) and (e)).