SANTA MONICA, CA – Acclaimed advertising and regulatory attorney William Rothbard has commented on the continued conflict within the Federal Trade Commission over the proper standards for advertising regulation. A lawyer with experience on the subject and a former Senior FTC Official, Rothbard is a recognized expert on FTC advertising law. He has explained the details of the discord in the hope of informing the public of an important debate occurring at the highest levels of the agency that has significant implications for consumers, marketers and innovators.
Rothbard notes that the FTC is under immense pressure to understand and develop an appropriate regulatory response to the explosion of marketing for high-tech consumer gadgets. As technology continues to increase the number of ways consumers are plugged in, the agency finds itself with the difficult task of regulating what has been coined, ‘the Internet of things.’ According to tech CTO Dave Evans, 127 items are added to the internet every second. A major concern is whether regulation can keep up with a rapidly expanding virtual world and do so in a way that protects consumers from the risks of misinformation about important new products, such as health-related apps, while not running the risk of overregulating and dampening technological innovation. William Rothbard, who has an in-depth knowledge of the agency, worries that the FTC may be erring on the side of too stringent regulation – a concern shared by one side of the debate raging inside the agency.
In a recent settlement involving a family of health apps known as the ‘Mole Detective’ and the ‘Mel App,’ Rothbard has written that Republican FTC Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen found herself at odds with the Democratic majority. The apps are intended to help consumers recognize moles that could potentially pose a risk of melanoma and encourage them to seek preventive care when needed. Ohlhausen dissented from the settlement because she felt it required too many types of claims for the apps and other health-related consumer products to be supported by randomized controlled trials, the most onerous and expensive form of scientific testing. She feared that imposing such a burden could chill innovation and the dissemination of useful, truthful health information to consumers.
With the resignation last year of the only other Republican FTC Commissioner, Rothbard writes that Commissioner Ohlhausen is now the “sole voice of restraint in this FTC’s relentless march to subject the widest possible berth of health-related claims to the requirement of controlled human clinical trials, rather than the more flexible, traditional standard of “competent and reliable scientific evidence” as determined by the experts in the relevant field. “The FTC, a non-scientific agency, is now aggressively usurping that role, deeming itself the ’expert’ and imposing a single, one-size-fits-all standard on which there is no clear scientific consensus outside the world of pharmaceutical testing.” Will consumers be worse off? Rothbard, along with Commissioner Ohlhausen, fears the answer could be yes.
William Rothbard is the founder of the Law Offices of William I. Rothbard in Los Angeles. With over 35 years of experience as an attorney with a specialization in advertising law and business litigation, and as a former Senior Official at the FTC, Rothbard is a highly respected leader in the field. Rothbard is an active speaker and writer and has served as the Editor of the California Bar journal ‘Competition’. He is a regular contributor to the Direct Response Marketing Alliance newsletter and blogs on FTC issues at www.FTCAdLaw.com
William Rothbard – On Avoiding FTC Actions: Presentation at Affiliate Summit West: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSnMKWS1L4qa+1e8+MKW20150713
William Rothbard — Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Puts an End to ‘Gag Clause’: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/william-rothbard-federal-trade-commission-033810205.html