Support for Sotomayor – National Consumers League

NCL has issued a statement of support for the confirmation of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court of the United States. Read why we’re encouraging the Senate to confirm her here.

NCL Urges Senate to Rein in Deceptive Advertisers – National Consumers League

By Barbara Shaibu, NCL Public Policy Intern

In an era of media saturation, advertisers are constantly on the prowl for the next best medium for reaching and attracting potential customers. Even in the face of grueling economic conditions and the resulting cutbacks in corporate advertising budgets, more than $141 billion was spent in 2008 on advertising in the United States, according to TNS Media Intelligence. In recognizing the critical role advertising plays in informing consumers about products and services and influencing their decision-making, NCL believes policymakers should take a proactive role in regulating the industry.

The explosion of cable television and the Internet has contributed to the growth of the industry. However, when flipping the channels or surfing the Internet, consumers are bombarded with advertisements with questionable guarantees of weight loss, baldness cures, and business opportunities. NCL believes that new media have fueled an increase in deceptive advertisements that prey on consumers and leave them less knowledgeable about their rights and responsibilities with regards to products and services.

In response to this issue, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has proposed revisions to its Guides Concerning Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (“the Guides”). The proposed revisions require that advertisers who use testimonials be able to substantiate the claims made by consumers, experts, or celebrity endorsers in the ads. For example, when extreme results are promoted in advertisements (such as for weight-loss or baldness cures), advertisers would be required to clearly disclose the average results actual users of the product received.

Consumer advocates believe that the current disclaimers on such advertisements, such as “Results May Vary” or “Results Not Typical,” are insufficient. Another revision to the Guides would require that experts who testify on the effectiveness of a particular product must actually be qualified to make a claim. For example, an “expert doctor” whose PhD is in philosophy would not be qualified, under the proposed rules, to make a claim about the effectiveness of a diet pill. Lastly, the Commission has proposed significant revisions to section 255.1 (“General Consideration”) and 255.5 (“Disclosure of Material Connection”) of the Guides to address the growing problem of bloggers and other users of social media platforms failing to disclose compensatory relationships with advertisers in product and service reviews and endorsements.

Recently, appearing before a subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee, NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg testified on this issue. In her testimony, she expressed NCL’s strong support of the proposed revisions to the Guides, indicating that such revisions were necessary and long overdue. (The Guides were last revised in 1980—when the primary means of disseminating advertisements were via traditional print, radio, and television outlets.)

Greenberg’s testimony addressed how enhanced blogger disclosure would bolster consumer confidence. NCL maintains that consumers should be informed when bloggers post information about a sponsor’s product or write opinions that aren’t necessarily their own. Without reasonable guidelines for disclosure, there is the threat that consumer distrust of the value of product reviews in the blogosphere and other social media platforms will grow substantially.

Greenberg also expressed NCL’s dismay at the undisclosed use of Video News Releases (VNRs) by media organizations and urged the FTC to investigate whether VNRs violate deceptive advertising regulations. “We believe that consumer trust in media has been compromised by the use of VNRs that purport to be news but are really paid advertising,” she noted in her testimony.

For more information on Greenberg’s Senate testimony, click here. To view a Webcast of the hearings, click here.

Labor Conditions In China Deteriorate—Disney Hit With Criticism – National Consumers League

by Barbara Shaibu, NCL Public Policy Intern

Barbara Shaibu is an NCL public policy intern this summer and hails from College Park, MD. She is a rising junior at the University of Pennsylvania, majoring in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics.

In South China on April 5th, 2009, a 17-year-old-worker, Liu Pan, was crushed to death by malfunctioning machinery in a stationery factory. Liu’s body was so disfigured from the accident that his parents had a hard time identifying him.

Liu had been illegally hired and working at Yiuwah Stationery Factory since age 15, below China’s legal age limit. The entertainment giant, the Walt Disney Company, finds itself on the hot seat because Yiuwah produces goods for the company.

In wake of the incident, the group China Labor Watch (CLW) investigated the conditions at the Yiuwah and alleges that systematic violations of labor rights are occurring at the factory. According to CLW’s report, not only were there underage workers, but workers—including children—were working in harsh and unsafe conditions.

According to CLW, Disney audited the factory in the past year but failed to notice several violations, including the presence of underage workers—some as young as 13. CLW alleges that in the factory untrained workers operate dangerous machinery, contracts are routinely violated, workers are forced to perform overtime, and maternity leave is often denied.

In response to the CLW’s report, Disney pledged to improve conditions in Yiuwah. A June 22nd New York Times article notes that Disney issued a statement announcing that it “had instructed its vendors and licensees to ‘cease new orders of any Disney-branded products in the Yiuwah factory’ until conditions were improved.”

The CLW accused Disney of categorically abandoning Yiuwah. However, Disney pledged to assist in making the much-needed changes to the factory. You can view CLW’s open letter to Disney at

“We believe a victory at Yiuwah would be an important change in the way Disney does business in China,” said Li Qiang, CLW’s executive director. “It is very important to apply pressure for Disney to invest in improving conditions at [the factory] rather than canceling its orders.”

A July 30th letter suggests that Disney has listened. In the letter, Disney’s Senior Vice President of Corporate Responsibility Jennifer Anopolsky said the company is making great progress in bringing about change at Yiuwah, citing several improvements: an improved age verification program, the addition of new safety equipment, and worker safety training. Yiuwah is now also paying workers the correct minimum wage, providing vacation and rest days, and covering workers with injury insurance, according to Disney, which has also hired a company to monitor the factory’s progress.

Assuming they are implemented correctly, the National Consumers League applauds these corrections but we wonder how many other Yiuwah’s are out there. The death of Liu Pan raises many questions about working conditions elsewhere in China. And, despite a major labor law enacted a year and half ago, conditions for Chinese workers appear to be worsening nationwide.