Flushability Claims Must Be Substantiated


FTC / Federal Trade CommissionHere is a case that underscores why broadcasters and other advertising-supported businesses cannot be expected to police the accuracy of the ads they run – it involves scientific proof to back a claim about the biodegradable qualities of a brand of wet wipes.

In this case, the brand wasn’t exactly branded as making deceptive claims. However, the applicability of the scientific testing it relied on to back its claims was questioned.

The manufacturer, Nice-Pak, must refrain from saying its products are safe for sewers and septic tanks until such time as it can prove the claim. It has to also stop providing material making these claims to its retain partners.

“The evidence didn’t back up Nice-Pak’s claims that their wipes were safe to flush,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “If you claim a product is flushable, it needs to flush in the real world, without clogging household plumbing or sewer and septic systems.”

It’s not that the company didn’t have testing stats. FTC alleged, “The company’s tests did not reflect real world household plumbing or septic conditions.”

FTC said, “The proposed administrative consent order settling the FTC charges prohibits Nice-Pak from misrepresenting that any wipe is safe to flush, unless it can substantiate that the wipe will disperse in a ‘sufficiently short amount of time’ after flushing to prevent clogging and/or damage to household plumbing, sewage lines, septic systems, and other standard wastewater treatment equipment. The test must also replicate the physical conditions of the environment where the wipes will be disposed.”

RBR+TVBR observation: There is no way that a broadcaster operating on this or any other nearby planet can be expected to have a viable opinion as to how a wet wipe or any other product will fare in the average septic tank.

We often note product claims that if not failing the smell test outright, at the very least smell awfully suspicious and should at least arouse a broadcaster’s curiosity.

Not in this case – although the application of the word “smell” is all to apropos in this septic case, we would have no basis to suspect that the manufacturer’s claims were over the line.

So whereas we normally advise broadcasters to help keep fraudulent product claims off the air, in this case, FTC, we think you’re on your own.