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Notice

Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposed Collection; Comment Request

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Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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AGENCY:

Federal Trade Commission (“Commission” or “FTC”).

ACTION:

Notice.

SUMMARY:

The FTC plans to conduct a study to examine consumer perception of environmental marketing claims. This activity is part of the Commission’s regulatory review of the Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims (“Green Guides” or “Guides”). Before gathering this information, the FTC is seeking public comments on the proposed study. Comments will be considered before the FTC submits a request for Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) review under the Paperwork Reduction Act (“PRA”).

DATES:

Comments must be received on or before December 15, 2008.

ADDRESSES:

Interested parties are invited to submit written comments electronically or in paper form. Comments should refer to “Green Marketing Consumer Perception Study, Project No. P954501” to facilitate the organization of comments. Please note that comments will be placed on the public record of this proceeding—including on the publicly accessible FTC website, at (http://www.ftc.gov/​os/​publiccomments.shtm) — and therefore should not include any sensitive or confidential information. In particular, comments should not include any sensitive personal information, such as an individual’s Social Security Number; date of birth; driver’s license number or other state identification number, or foreign country equivalent; passport number; financial account number; or credit or debit card number. Comments also should not include any sensitive health information, such as medical records or other individually identifiable health information. In addition, comments should not include any “[t]rade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person and privileged or confidential . . .,” as provided in Section 6(f) of the FTC Act, 15 U.S.C. 46(f), and Commission Rule 4.10(a)(2), 16 CFR 4.10(a)(2) (2008). Comments containing Start Printed Page 60703material for which confidential treatment is requested must be filed in paper form, must be clearly labeled “Confidential,” and must comply with FTC Rule 4.9(c).[1]

Because paper mail addressed to the FTC is subject to delay due to heightened security screening, please consider submitting your comments in electronic form. Comments filed in electronic form should be submitted by using the following weblink: (https://secure.commentworks.com/​ftc-GreenGuidesReview) (and following the instructions on the web-based form). To ensure that the Commission considers an electronic comment, you must file it on the web-based form at the weblink (https://secure.commentworks.com/​ftc-GreenGuidesReview). If this Notice appears at (http://www.regulations.gov/​search/​index.jsp), you may also file an electronic comment through that website. The Commission will consider all comments that regulations.gov forwards to it. You may also visit the FTC website at http://www.ftc.gov to read the Notice and the news release describing it.

A comment filed in paper form should include the “Green Marketing Consumer Perception Study, Project No. P954501” reference both in the text and on the envelope, and should be mailed or delivered to the following address: Federal Trade Commission, Office of the Secretary, Room H-135 (Annex J), 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580. The FTC is requesting that any comment filed in paper form be sent by courier or overnight service, if possible, because U.S. postal mail in the Washington area and at the Commission is subject to delay due to heightened security precautions.

The FTC Act and other laws the Commission administers permit the collection of public comments to consider and use in this proceeding as appropriate. The Commission will consider all timely and responsive public comments that it receives, whether filed in paper or electronic form. Comments received will be available to the public on the FTC website, to the extent practicable, at (http://www.ftc.gov/​os/​publiccomments.shtm). As a matter of discretion, the Commission makes every effort to remove home contact information for individuals from the public comments it receives before placing those comments on the FTC website. More information, including routine uses permitted by the Privacy Act, may be found in the FTC’s privacy policy, at (http://www.ftc.gov/​ftc/​privacy.shtm).

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Laura Koss, Attorney, 202-326-2890, or Michael J. Davis, Attorney, 202-326-2458, Division of Enforcement, Bureau of Consumer Protection, Federal Trade Commission.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

I. Background

The Commission issued the Green Guides, 16 CFR Part 260, to help marketers avoid making environmental claims that are unfair or deceptive under Section 5 of the FTC Act, 15 U.S.C. 45.[2] Guides are administrative interpretations of the law. Therefore, they do not have the force and effect of law and are not independently enforceable. The Guides, however, are the Commission’s interpretation of Section 5 of the FTC Act as it applies to environmental marketing claims. The Commission, therefore, can take action under the FTC Act if a business makes environmental marketing claims inconsistent with the Guides. In any such enforcement action, the Commission must prove that the act or practice at issue is unfair or deceptive.

The Green Guides outline general principles that apply to all environmental marketing claims and provide guidance regarding specific categories of environmental claims. These categories include: general environmental benefit claims, such as “environmentally friendly”; degradable claims; compostable claims; recyclable claims; recycled content claims; source reduction claims; refillable claims; and ozone safe/ozone friendly claims. For each of these claims, the Green Guides explain how reasonable consumers are likely to interpret them. The Guides also describe the basic elements necessary to substantiate claims and present options for qualifying specific claims to avoid deception.[3] The illustrative qualifications provide “safe harbors” for marketers who want certainty about how to make environmental claims, but do not represent the only permissible approaches to qualifying a claim.

II. Regulatory Review of the Green Guides

The Commission reviews all of its rules and guides periodically to examine their efficacy, costs, and benefits, and to determine whether to retain, modify, or rescind them. On November 26, 2007, the FTC commenced its review of the Green Guides and sought public comment.[4] As part of this comprehensive review, the FTC also announced a series of public workshops to explore emerging environmental marketing issues and, through subsequent notices, opened public comment periods in connection with each workshop.[5] The Commission sought comment on a number of issues, including the continuing need for and economic impact of the Guides, the effect of the Guides on the accuracy of environmental claims, and whether the Guides should illustrate certain environmental claims—such as carbon neutrality, sustainability, and renewability—not currently addressed in the Guides. The Commission also sought specific consumer survey evidence and consumer perception data addressing environmental claims. Few commenters submitted consumer survey evidence or consumer perception data. The Commission, therefore, is considering conducting its own consumer study related to consumer perception of environmental marketing claims. This study would aid the Commission in determining what revisions, if any, it should make to the Guides to ensure that the Guides are appropriately responsive to any changes in consumer perception of environmental claims.

III. Paperwork Reduction Act Notice

As required by Section 3506(c)(2)(A) of the PRA, 44 U.S.C. 3501-21, the FTC is providing this opportunity for public comment before requesting that OMB approve the study. Under the PRA, federal agencies must obtain OMB approval for each collection of information they conduct or sponsor. “Collection of information” means agency requests or requirements that members of the public submit reports, keep records, or provide information to a third party. 44 U.S.C. 3502(3); 5 CFR 1320.3(c).

Specifically, the FTC invites comments on: (1) whether the proposed collection of information is necessary Start Printed Page 60704for the proper performance of the functions of the FTC, including whether the information will have practical utility; (2) the accuracy of the FTC’s estimate of the burden of the proposed collection of information; (3) ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and (4) ways to minimize the burden of collecting information on those who are to respond, including through the use of appropriate automated, electronic, mechanical, or other technological collection techniques or other forms of information technology, e.g., permitting electronic submission of responses. All comments should be filed as prescribed in the ADDRESSES section above, and must be received on or before December 15, 2008.

IV. FTC’s Proposed Study of Consumer Perception

The FTC proposes to collect information from up to 7,000 consumers in order to gather data on consumer perception of environmental marketing claims. All information will be collected on a voluntary basis. The FTC plans to contract with a consumer research firm to identify consumers and conduct the study via the Internet. Among other things, the research firm will be expected to study a stratified sample of the adult United States population broadly representative of consumer group characteristics (e.g., geographic location, housing characteristics, gender, age, education, and race/ethnicity), relative to the most recent Census Bureau Current Population Survey.

The FTC expects that selected respondents will be asked questions about a number of express or implied environmental marketing claim concepts, such as “renewable” and “sustainable.” Each concept may be featured in a separate module of questions. Such questions may explore perceptions about the unqualified general concept and variations on the concept. The results will assist the FTC in its review of the Green Guides by helping to ensure that the Green Guides are consistent with consumer perception of environmental marketing claims.

The FTC is considering pre-testing the consumer questionnaires on approximately 100 respondents to ensure that all questions are easily understood. The FTC expects that the pre-test would take approximately 25 minutes on average per person, approximately 42 hours total (100 respondents x 25 minutes each). Once the pretest is completed, the FTC plans to seek information from up to 7,000 respondents for approximately 25 minutes each. Thus, answering the FTC’s information requests will require up to 2,917 hours total (7,000 respondents x 25 minutes each). Accordingly, cumulative total burden hours for the survey will be approximately 3,000 hours.

The cost per respondent should be negligible. Participation is voluntary and will not require start-up, capital, or labor expenditures by respondents.

By direction of the Commission.

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Donald S. Clark,

Secretary.

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Footnotes

1. FTC Rule 4.2(d), 16 CFR 4.2(d). The comment must be accompanied by an explicit request for confidential treatment, including the factual and legal basis for the request, and must identify the specific portions of the comment to be withheld from the public record. The request will be granted or denied by the Commission’s General Counsel, consistent with applicable law and the public interest. See FTC Rule 4.9(c), 16 CFR 4.9(c) (2008).

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2. The Commission issued the Green Guides in 1992, 57 FR 36363, and subsequently revised them in 1996 (61 FR 53311) and 1998 (63 FR 24240).

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3. The Guides do not, however, establish standards for environmental performance or prescribe testing protocols.

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5. See 72 FR 66094, Carbon Offsets and Renewable Energy Certificates (held on January 8, 2008); 73 FR 11371, Green Packaging Claims (held on April 30, 2008); and 73 FR 32662, Green Building and Textiles (held on July 8, 2008).

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[FR Doc. E8-24339 Filed 10-10-08: 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 6750-01-S