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Consumer Groups Seek EPA MPGs On All Car Ads

The Consumer Federation of America has joined with Consumers Union and others to urge the Federal Trade Commission to require TV and radio automotive ads that make general fuel economy claims to back them up with EPA miles-per-gallon (MPG) numbers.

Car ads are a big driver of local TV ad sales.

The FTC is seeking comment on economy claims, how they relate to deceptive and unfair claims under the FTC Act, and whether general claims not backed up with EPA numbers may be deceptive.

"Anytime an advertising claim or mention is made about fuel economy (i.e., 'great mileage,' 'fuel efficient,' 'savings at the pump,' 'best in class for fuel efficiency' etc.) the EPA mpg numbers must be clearly presented. In TV and radio ads, there should also be a clear, audible representation of the mpg."

They also argue that only using a highway average for the MPG in an ad is deceptive since it is unlikely that would be the regular fuel consumption number. They argue that ads should either 1) provide all three numbers--city, highway and combined-- with combined in the largest font in a TV ad or the last number mentioned in a radio ad, or 2) provide combined only in circumstances where ad content is limited.

They argue providing simply one unidentified number, says 37 mpg (which is almost always the highway, which is the highest) is deceptive. They also say "up to" claims are also deceptive.

They also advise against allowing any but the EPA standard to be used in ads. "The only way to avoid significant deception is to allow ONLY the EPA ratings to be used in advertising. "There are many ways to measure a vehicle’s potential gas mileage and, as such, allowing alternative mileage rating systems would substantially increase deceptive advertising related to this important consumer purchase information."

For electric vehicles, they want an MPGe disclosure, which is a miles-per-gallon equivalent.