‘Ethical’ consumerism is sometimes in tension with centuries-old common-law commercial standards. One of those standards is materiality: a misrepresentation is actionable, generally, only if it relates to a product, its features, or its attributes. Here, the complainants aren’t claiming that they don’t get what they’re promised when they buy Oreos or bath towels at Walmart. Instead, they’re arguing that Walmart is misleading when it claims to pay a wage permitting its employees to “build a future” and that some consumers, who make such considerations part of their decision whether or not to patronize Walmart, may be misled. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission implies strongly that it declines to investigate the claim on the grounds that the type and severity of (alleged) consumer injury don’t merit it. In other words, when you buy Oreos and bath towels at Walmart, you don’t buy Walmart’s employee compensation scheme, so there can’t really be a consumer injury, even if Walmart’s ads are misleading. Does ‘ethical’ consumerism change the materiality of a merchant’s claims? Should the U.S. FTC police the content of advertisements that relate to matters besides a product’s features and attributes? >>>
LINK: Regulators Won’t Investigate Claims That Walmart’s “Raise In Pay” Commercial Is Misleading (by Ashlee Kieler for Consumerist)
Federal regulators won’t investigate a Walmart television advertisement two months after an ad review board found the retailer might have misled TV viewers about recent changes in pay for Walmart workers.
According to the FTC’s letter, the agency came to its decision not to probe the commercial after considering “a number of factors related to resource allocation and enforcement priorities, as well as, the nature of any FTC Act violation and the type and severity of any consumer injury.”
What do you think?