The Federal Trade Commission issued a proposed order settling its complaint against Federal-Mogul Motorparts LLC regarding its allegedly unsubstantiated braking performance claims displayed in advertisements and promotional materials. The order requires Federal-Mogul to properly support its claims with competent and reliable scientific evidence.
Federal-Mogul manufactures aftermarket auto parts and offers its Wagner OEX brake pads for use on crossover utility vehicles, SUVs, and pickup trucks. The claims at issue touted the alleged superior performance and safety of Federal-Mogul’s aftermarket Wagner OEX brake pads, as compared to competitors’ brake pads. The FTC alleged that Federal-Mogul’s advertisements and promotional materials for the Wagner OEX brake pads falsely claimed that the pads would (1) stop a vehicle significantly sooner than competing brake pads, and (2) reduce the risk of collisions as compared to competing brake pads.
Specifically, a video ad depicted an SUV avoiding a crash and included the following narrated statement:
“Wagner OEX brake pads can stop you up to 50 feet sooner. Do you know what’s on your vehicle?”
Similarly, a print ad depicted a family standing in front of a crashed SUV and an intact SUV with the following statement:
“Wagner OEX brake pads can stop your truck, SUV, or crossover up to 50 feet sooner than other leading pads.* It can mean 50 feet saved when you need it most. And when you family’s safety is on the line, isn’t that what really matters?”
Federal-Mogul hired an independent company to conduct head-to-head testing of the Wagner OEX brake pads against competing pads, and included a disclaimer in its ads noting same. According to the FTC, however, the statements made in the ads were not properly substantiated because the testing did not simulate real-world driving conditions. The testing required a driver to apply a constant and relatively light force to a brake pedal to stop a vehicle in “the shortest distance achievable” (also known as a “best-effort” stop). The brake pads were, however, tested only after they had reached a set temperature above normal driving conditions. Heated brake pads result in longer stopping distances, and thus require greater pedal force to stop in the shortest achievable distance. Therefore, the pedal force applied in the testing failed to evaluate a realistic amount of pressure that a driver would need to apply to avoid an accident.
Federal-Mogul agreed to settle the complaint, and the FTC issued a proposed order which required that any future performance claims be substantiated by qualified researchers using standards generally accepted by experts in the field of automobile brakes.
The case is In re Federal-Mogul Motoparts LLC, FTC No. 172-3102 (2020).
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