Title 16 Part 259
Title 16 → Chapter I → Subchapter B → Part 259
Electronic Code of Federal Regulations e-CFR
Title 16 Part 259
The Guide in this part contains administrative interpretations of laws enforced by the Federal Trade Commission. Specifically, the Guide addresses the application of Section 5 of the FTC Act (15 U.S.C. 45) to the use of fuel economy information in advertising for new automobiles. This guidance provides the basis for voluntary compliance with the law by advertisers and endorsers. Practices inconsistent with this Guide may result in corrective action by the Commission under Section 5 if, after investigation, the Commission has reason to believe that the practices fall within the scope of conduct declared unlawful by the statute. The Guide sets forth the general principles that the Commission will use in such an investigation together with examples illustrating the application of those principles. The Guide does not purport to cover every possible use of fuel economy in advertising. Whether a particular advertisement is deceptive will depend on the specific advertisement at issue.
For the purposes of this part, the following definitions shall apply:
Alternative fueled vehicle. Any vehicle that qualifies as a covered vehicle under part 309 of this chapter.
Automobile. Any new passenger automobile, medium duty passenger vehicle, or light truck for which a fuel economy label is required under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (42 U.S.C. 32901 et seq.) or rules promulgated thereunder, the equitable or legal title to which has never been transferred by a manufacturer, distributor, or dealer to an ultimate purchaser or lessee. For the purposes of this part, the terms “vehicle” and “car” have the same meaning as “automobile.”
Dealer. Any person located in the United States or any territory thereof engaged in the sale or distribution of new automobiles to the ultimate purchaser.
EPA. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
EPA city fuel economy estimate. The city fuel economy determined in accordance with the city test procedure as defined and determined pursuant to 40 CFR part 600, subpart D.
EPA combined fuel economy estimate. The fuel economy value determined for a vehicle (or vehicles) by harmonically averaging the city and highway fuel economy values, weighted 0.55 and 0.45 respectively, determined pursuant to 40 CFR part 600, subpart D.
EPA driving range estimate. An estimate of the number of miles a vehicle will travel between refueling as defined and determined pursuant to 40 CFR part 600, subpart D.
EPA fuel economy estimate. The average number of miles traveled by an automobile per volume of fuel consumed (i.e., Miles-Per-Gallon (“MPG”) rating) as calculated under 40 CFR part 600, subpart D.
EPA highway fuel economy estimate. The highway fuel economy determined in accordance with the highway test procedure as defined and determined pursuant to 40 CFR part 600, subpart D.
Flexible fueled vehicle. Any motor vehicle (or motor vehicle engine) engineered and designed to be operated on any mixture of two or more different fuels.
Fuel. (1) Gasoline and diesel fuel for gasoline- or diesel-powered automobiles;
(2) Electricity for electrically-powered automobiles;
(3) Alcohol for alcohol-powered automobiles;
(4) Natural gas for natural gas-powered automobiles; or
(5) Any other fuel type used in a vehicle for which EPA requires a fuel economy label under 40 CFR part 600, subpart D.
Manufacturer. Any person engaged in the manufacturing or assembling of new automobiles, including any person importing new automobiles for resale and any person who acts for, and is under the control, of such manufacturer, assembler, or importer in connection with the distribution of new automobiles.
Model type. A unique combination of car line, basic engine, and transmission class as defined by 40 CFR part 600, subpart D.
Ultimate purchaser or lessee. The first person, other than a dealer purchasing in his or her capacity as a dealer, who in good faith purchases a new automobile for purposes other than resale or leases such vehicle for his or her personal use.
Vehicle configuration. The unique combination of automobile features, as defined in 40 CFR part 600.
§259.3 Qualifications and disclosures.
To prevent deceptive claims, qualifications and disclosures should be clear, prominent, and understandable. To make disclosures clear and prominent, marketers should use plain language and sufficiently large type for a person to see and understand them, should place disclosures in close proximity to the qualified claim, and should avoid making inconsistent statements or using distracting elements that could undercut or contradict the disclosure. The disclosures should also appear in the same format as the claim. For example, for television advertisements, if the fuel economy claim appears in the video, the disclosure recommended by this Guide should appear in the visual format; if the fuel economy claim is audio, the disclosure should be in audio.
§259.4 Advertising guidance.
(a) Misrepresentations. It is deceptive to misrepresent, directly or by implication, the fuel economy or driving range of an automobile.
(b) General fuel economy claims. General unqualified fuel economy claims, which do not reference a specific fuel economy estimate, likely convey a wide range of meanings about a vehicle's fuel economy relative to other vehicles. Such claims, which inherently involve comparisons to other vehicles, can mislead consumers about the vehicle class included in the comparison, as well as the extent to which the advertised vehicle's fuel economy differs from other models. Because it is highly unlikely that advertisers can substantiate all reasonable interpretations of these claims, advertisers making general fuel economy claims should disclose the advertised vehicle's EPA fuel economy estimate in the form of the EPA MPG rating.
(c) Matching the EPA estimate to the claim. EPA fuel economy estimates should match the mode of driving claim appearing in the advertisement. If they do not, consumers are likely to associate the stated fuel economy estimate with a different type of driving. Specifically, if an advertiser makes a city or a highway fuel economy claim, it should disclose the corresponding EPA-estimated city or highway fuel economy estimate. If the advertiser makes both a city and a highway fuel economy claim, it should disclose both the EPA estimated city and highway fuel economy rating. If the advertiser makes a general fuel economy claim without specifically referencing city or highway driving, it should disclose the EPA combined fuel economy estimate, or, alternatively, both the EPA city and highway fuel economy estimates.
(d) Identifying fuel economy and driving range ratings as estimates. Advertisers citing EPA fuel economy or driving range figures should disclose that these numbers are estimates. Without such disclosures, consumers may incorrectly assume that they will achieve the mileage or range stated in the advertisement. In fact, their actual mileage or range will likely vary for many reasons, including driving conditions, driving habits, and vehicle maintenance. To address potential deception, advertisers may state that the values are “EPA estimate(s),” or use equivalent language that informs consumers that they will not necessarily achieve the stated MPG rating or driving range.
(e) Disclosing EPA test as source of fuel economy and driving range estimates. Advertisers citing any EPA fuel economy or driving range figures should identify EPA as the source of the test so consumers understand that the estimate is comparable to EPA estimates for competing models. Doing so prevents deception by ensuring that consumers do not associate the claimed ratings with a test other than the EPA-required procedures. Advertisers may avoid deception by stating that the values are “EPA estimate(s),” or equivalent language that identifies the EPA test as the source.
(f) Specifying driving modes for fuel economy estimates. If an advertiser cites an EPA fuel economy estimate, it should identify the particular type of driving associated with the estimate (i.e., estimated city, highway, or combined MPG). Advertisements failing to do so can deceive consumers who incorrectly assume the disclosure applies to a specific type of driving, such as combined or highway, which may not be the driving type the advertiser intended. Thus, such consumers may believe the model's fuel economy rating is higher than it actually is.
(g) Within vehicle class comparisons. If an advertisement contains an express comparative fuel economy claim where the relevant comparison is to any group or class, other than all available automobiles, the advertisement should identify the group or class of vehicles used in the comparison. Without such qualifying information, many consumers are likely to assume that the advertisement compares the vehicle to all new automobiles.
(h) Comparing different model types. Fuel economy estimates are assigned to specific model types under 40 CFR part 600, subpart D (i.e., unique combinations of car line, basic engine, and transmission class). Therefore, advertisers citing MPG ratings for certain models should ensure that the rating applies to the model type depicted in the advertisement. It is deceptive to state or imply that a rated fuel economy figure applies to a vehicle featured in an advertisement if the estimate does not apply to vehicles of that model type.
(i) “Up to” claims. Advertisers should avoid using the term “up to” without adequate explanatory language if they intend to communicate that certain versions of a model (i.e., model types) are rated at a stated fuel economy estimate. A significant proportion of reasonable consumers are likely to interpret such claims to mean that the stated MPG can be achieved if the vehicle is driven under certain conditions. Therefore, to address the risk of deception, advertisers should qualify the claim by clearly and prominently disclosing the stated MPG applies to a particular vehicle model type.
(j) Claims for flexible-fueled vehicles. Advertisements for flexible-fueled vehicles should not mislead consumers about the vehicle's fuel economy when operated with alternative fuel. If an advertisement for a flexible-fueled vehicle (other than a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) mentions the vehicle's flexible-fuel capability and makes a fuel economy claim, it should clearly and prominently qualify the claim to identify the type of fuel used. Without such qualification, consumers are likely to take away that the stated fuel economy estimate applies to both gasoline and alternative fuel operation.
(k) General driving range claims. General unqualified driving range claims, which do not reference a specific driving range estimate, are difficult for consumers to interpret and likely convey a wide range of meanings about a vehicle's range relative to other vehicles. Such claims, which inherently involve comparisons to other vehicles, can mislead consumers about the vehicle class included in the comparison as well as the extent to which the advertised vehicle's driving range differs from other models. Consumers may take away a range of reasonable interpretations from these claims. To avoid possible deception, advertisers making general driving range claims should disclose the advertised vehicle's EPA driving range estimate.
(l) Use of non-EPA estimates—(1) Disclosure content. Given consumers' exposure to EPA estimated fuel economy values over the last several decades, fuel economy and driving range estimates derived from non-EPA tests can lead to deception if consumers understand such estimates to be fuel economy ratings derived from EPA-required tests. Accordingly, advertisers should avoid such claims and disclose the EPA fuel economy or driving range estimates. However, if an advertisement includes a claim about a vehicle's fuel economy or driving range based on a non-EPA estimate, advertisers should disclose the EPA estimate and disclose with substantially more prominence than the non-EPA estimate:
(i) That the fuel economy or driving range information is based on a non-EPA test;
(ii) The source of the non-EPA test;
(iii) The EPA fuel economy estimates or EPA driving range estimates for the vehicle; and
(iv) All driving conditions or vehicle configurations simulated by the non-EPA test that are different from those used in the EPA test. Such conditions and variables may include, but are not limited to, road or dynamometer test, average speed, range of speed, hot or cold start, temperature, and design or equipment differences.
(2) Disclosure format. The Commission regards the following as constituting “substantially more prominence”:
(i) For visual disclosures on television. If the fuel economy claims appear only in the visual portion, the EPA figures should appear in numbers twice as large as those used for any other estimate, and should remain on the screen at least as long as any other estimate. Each EPA figure should be broadcast against a solid color background that contrasts easily with the color used for the numbers when viewed on both color and black and white television.
(ii) For audio disclosures. For radio and television advertisements in which any other estimate is used only in the audio, equal prominence should be given to the EPA figures. The Commission will regard the following as constituting equal prominence: The EPA estimated city and/or highway MPG should be stated, either before or after each disclosure of such other estimate, at least as audibly as such other estimate.
(iii) For print and Internet disclosures. The EPA figures should appear in clearly legible type at least twice as large as that used for any other estimate. The EPA figures should appear against a solid color, and contrasting background. They may not appear in a footnote unless all references to fuel economy appear in a footnote.