False or misleading advertising can result in enforcement actions and fines imposed by federal and state authorities in the United States and federal and provincial authorities in Canada, and may also result in litigation by competitors who have lost sales because of the false advertisement, or consumers who have suffered injury because a product did not possess an advertised safety or quality attribute. For these reasons, and because false advertising may undermine the public confidence in the window film industry, the International Window Film Association adopts the following advertising guidelines. These guidelines do not constitute a complete statement of the law of false advertising. Rather, they set forth general principles of the law as interpreted and enforced by the Federal Trade Commission ("FTC"), and the states and the courts of the United States. These guidelines are also consistent with the false advertising principles as enforced in Canada.
Determining whether an advertisement violates these guidelines is a highly fact intensive inquiry. IWFA recommends, therefore, that members with questions about the validity of their advertised claims should consult their legal counsel or manufacturer's representatives.
At the discretion of the IWFA Board of Directors and consistent with IWFA policy, IWFA members violating these guidelines may be subject to disciplinary action, suspension, or expulsion from the IWFA.
IWFA Advertising Guidelines:
- Compliance with the following guidelines will reduce the possibility that an advertisement will be found to be false, misleading, deceptive, or unsubstantiated.
- Clearly and accurately communicate all claims regarding window film attributes. Ensure that each representation, whether express or implied, is substantiated.
- Do not overstate the protective qualities of window film or the implications of satisfying building codes. For example, avoid using the term "proof" in window film advertisements such as "hurricane proof" "earthquake proof", or "bullet proof." Such terms likely will be interpreted as claiming that window film will protect against all eventualities in any hurricane, earthquake, or when penetrated by a bullet. Rather, it is permissible, for example, to advertise that window film provides added protection against the effects of hurricanes, earthquakes, or bullets as compared to a window with no film applied.
- Also, do not advertise that window film is "earthquake safe" because it satisfies local building codes. It is proper, for example, to advertise that the film satisfies local building codes, but satisfaction of those codes does not certify the film is "safe" in earthquakes of all magnitudes and against all flying debris during those earthquakes.
- Ensure that general claims regarding the protective quality of film are applicable to the typical consumer, not a particular limited class or type of consumer.
- Do not use pictures or other visual images that create a misleading impression on the minds of viewers.
- Advertisements should not contain claims that are inconsistent with product labeling, or use, or installation instructions.
- Do not use comparative terms such as "film is safer" without accurately providing a reference to what the film is safer than.
- Such unqualified language will be interpreted broadly and likely will be deemed deceptive unless the claims are true under all circumstances, and there exists adequate substantiation to support the broad claims at the time they are made. For example, the unqualified language "window film makes windows safer in storms" likely will be interpreted as claiming that window film offers greater protection against storm damage than all other products on the market.
- Comparative claims will not be deemed deceptive, however, if they are qualified and the qualified claims are accurate and substantiated at the time they are published. For example, "film is safer" may be qualified by explaining that windows are less likely to shatter in bad weather when film is applied to a window as compared to a window with no film applied. Additionally, visual portrayals and pictures can be used to explain, illustrate, or qualify the text of a claim if the text and images, when taken in the context of the entire advertisement are accurate and substantiated.
- When relying on tests or studies in an advertisement, do not misrepresent the purpose, quality, content, or conclusion of such test or study, and do not make any statement that is inconsistent with the results or general conclusions of any such test or study.
- For example, do not explicitly or impliedly claim that satisfaction of a test to determine whether a window film complies with a particular building code also determines the window film is earthquake or hurricane safe. Such a claim likely is an overstatement of the purpose and conclusion of that test.
- It is permissible to advertise that a particular film has achieved certain test scores or standards under particular test conditions. It is not permissible, however, to explicitly or impliedly suggest that these performance standards will be met under any condition other than those included in the test. It is also impermissible to modify products to attain a higher test score and to advertise that an unmodified product achieved the same score.
- Do not advertise, without qualification, that certain window film is in compliance with state law. Such a claim fails to inform consumers that federal law and local building codes may be applicable to the application of window film and may be deemed to be a material or intentional omission and, therefore, constitute a deceptive advertisement.
- As with any other claim, advertisement containing comparisons with competing products must substantiate the comparative claims. Tests substantiating such comparisons should apply under general and normal, not unusual or particular, conditions under which the window film is used.
- As to product superiority claims, emphasize only those features that are significantly superior, do not stress insignificant differences that will cause consumers to draw false or misleading conclusions about produce superiority.
- Superiority claims are not deceptive if there is a material difference in an aspect of a product's performance that consumers find meaningful and there is substantiation for the claim.
- Superiority claims cannot be based on minute technical differences in test results. For example, a security film advertisement likely would be found to be deceptive if the superiority claim were based on a slight difference in test results that did not translate into an effective increase in protection to the consumer or the consumer's property.
- Ensure that there is substantiation establishing a reasonable basis prior to making any performance or other objective claim about a product.
- Maintain files and records of information substantiating any claim.
- Ensure that substantiation is current with the state of knowledge at the time the advertisement is published.