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Black & Decker, FTC Settle Dispute over Iron Ads

November 7, 1989

TOWSON, Md. (AP) _ Black & Decker Inc. has settled a two-year dispute with the Federal Trade Commission over the use of safety claims in advertisements for its automatic shut-off irons.

Although the ads were pulled shortly after the FTC raised objections to their use in 1987, Black & Decker until Monday had refused to accept FTC guidelines restricting the use of private laboratory claims in product advertisements.

The conflict revolved around the company’s use of an endorsement from the Michigan-based National Fire Safety Council Inc., which had given the iron its ″exclusive″ certification of safety after it was hired by Black & Decker to conduct tests on its product.

The FTC has questioned the use of such claims in ads because it believes they give consumers the mistaken impression that the endorsement is sanctioned by an official agency.

Black & Decker began using the National Fire Safety Council’s endorsement in 1987, but pulled the advertisement that year after the FTC raised questions about the council’s qualifications and testing procedures, said Howard E. Geltzer, a spokesman for the company.

One of the ads in the campaign said: ″All irons should come with this seal. Only one does.″

The ad displayed the safety council seal and a photograph of the Automatic Shut-Off Iron, which was introduced in 1984 as the first clothes iron to beep and turn itself off automatically when left on and unattended for several minutes.

Geltzer said Black & Decker used the council’s endorsement under the assumption that it was qualified to make such certifications.

But the FTC suggested that Black & Decker officials knew the council was not equipped to make fire-safety judgments, and it accused the appliance manufacturer of using ″false and misleading″ advertisements.

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