This series of claims made by Equilibrium Tuning for the Blaze Performace ATOM V2 intake kit is substantial:
The Blaze ATOM V2 air intake system is one of the best-performing and flowing options on the market as verified by independent testing.Equilibrium Tuning
The remainder of the advertisement doesn’t present evidence that substantiates these claims.
In the United States, consumers are protected from deceptive or unfair business practices by the Federal Trade Commission. The absence of evidence in EQT’s product description raises questions about whether the business is aware of U.S. advertising laws.
A few requirements are:
Advertising must be truthful and not misleading.Federal Trade Commission
Before disseminating an ad, advertisers must have adequate substantiation for all objective product claims.Federal Trade Commission
A firm’s failure to possess and rely upon a reasonable basis for objective claims constitutes an unfair and deceptive act or practice in violation of Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act.Federal Trade Commission
Violating advertising laws can lead to prosecution:
The Commission emphasizes that as a matter of law, firms lacking a reasonable basis before an ad is disseminated violate Section 5 of the FTC Act and are subject to prosecution.Federal Trade Commission
Consumer Fraud Statistics
How big of a problem is consumer fraud in connection with Automotive Parts & Services?
Here are the Top 10 general categories where fraud complaints have been filed for the first three quarters of 2022.
The EQT advertisement occupies two prevalent fraud categories, online shopping, and auto-related.
Here are some of the challenges EQT has created with its claims:
- Selling the product and not presenting consumers with substantiation for the claims.
- Comparing the product to others on the market.
- Stating the product is one of the best performing.
- Stating the product is one of the best flowing.
- Stating the performance versus alternative offerings has been verified.
- Stating the performance measures were obtained by an independent source.
- Stating the performance measures were obtained by a test.
1) Selling the product and not presenting consumers with substantiation for the claims.
Selling the product and lacking substantiation for the objective claims made about the product is a deceptive act.
On November 5th I emailed Equilibrium Tuning some questions about the claims they are making. The business failed to respond.
On November 10th I asked one of the EQT employees on a social media site if the company had data to support their claims, the employee stated:
Based on the timing of this statement from EQT and the advertisement for the product preceding it this information from the FTC applies:
“The Commission emphasizes that as a matter of law, firms lacking a reasonable basis before an ad is disseminated violate Section 5 of the FTC Act and are subject to prosecution.“
I pointed out the FTC requirements to the employee and they reiterated that EQT will be substantiating their claims when “we’re ready to do so“.
Here’s what the FTC says about a business withholding information:
“In interpreting Section 5 of the Act, the Commission has determined that a representation, omission or practice is deceptive if it is likely to:
- mislead consumers and
- affect consumers’ behavior or decisions about the product or service.“
The challenge EQT has created for itself is convincing somebody from the FTC or California Attorney General’s office that a consumer’s decision to purchase this intake is not being affected by the lack of evidence for how well it functions.
Note: A claim can be misleading if relevant information is left out or if the claim implies something that’s not true.
2) Comparing the product to others on the market.
By stating the Blaze ATOM V2 is one of the best on the market this intake must be compared to at least a majority of the other products available for consumers to purchase.
Note: By my count, there are more than thirty-six (36) intake options for the Mk7. EQT should be presenting evidence showing how it compares with more than eighteen (18) alternative intakes, otherwise, it is being compared with a minority of alternatives.
3) Stating the product is one of the best performing.
EQT’s advertising misleads consumers by claiming that the Blaze intake is one of the best-performing (an undefined characteristic) and best-flowing.
Because EQT has failed to specify what characteristics comprise best performing it is assumed that other qualities consumers would value, such as particle filtration and resistance to heating of the intake air, are also comparable to the best-performing alternative products available to consumers. EQT must show that the Blaze intake performs at a similar level for these other valued measures.
4) Stating the product is one of the best flowing.
EQT must substantiate the claim that the Blaze intake is one of the best flowing by showing evidence they compared the flow performance of the Blaze intake with the same measurement made with some number of alternative products available to consumers.
5) Stating the performance versus alternative offerings has been verified.
In claiming that the performance has been “verified” EQT is giving the impression to the average consumer that they have established a correspondence of actual facts to what their claims are. Many measurements involve uncertainties arising from multiple sources, such as the measurement equipment, the environment, the method of measurement, etc. EQT will need to demonstrate that the processes they followed were of sufficient rigor to justify claiming that “verification” took place.
6) Stating the performance measures were obtained by an independent source.
Independent testing is conducted by professional testers that are not related to the business selling the product nor the consumers purchasing the product. EQT will need to provide evidence that an independent test organization performed the testing of the Blaze intake and alternative intakes.
Note: It is not uncommon to find vendors pointing to their customer’s use and feedback about products as “independent” results. The FTC position on testimonials and endorsements is that “Consumer endorsements themselves are not competent and reliable scientific evidence.”
7) Stating the performance measures were obtained by a test.
The FTC standard for substantiation includes, “when appropriate, backed by scientific evidence.” EQT will need to demonstrate that the test was performed following scientific procedures that are universally accepted to yield results that are sufficiently reliable to be used as evidence.
The following is advice from a legal firm specializing in advertising and marketing:
If your marketing people want to tout their product as the best, you might want to suggest that they also have the “best” substantiation for the claim.Veneable LLP
The likelihood that EQT will be able to successfully meet all of the FTC requirements is low. They should meet the FTC requirements before selling the product.
The advertising claim was likely written by somebody with no regard for what can legally be claimed in an advertisement.
On the receiving end of the unsubstantiated claims is a consumer looking at that advertising and believing it. They’re factoring the claims EQT is making into their decision about whether or not to purchase the $550 intake. Information that is omitted also affects their decision.
In the case of these claims, false or misleading advertising was brought to the attention of the business and it is continuing to present unsubstantiated information to consumers.
The next step is bringing the business’s misconduct to the attention of the agencies that work to enforce consumer protection laws.
I encourage others with an interest in having factual information about aftermarket performance products being sold to them to also file complaints.
Notifying the California Attorney General:
Notifying the Federal Trade Commission:
Equilibrium Tuning INC
631 Railroad Ave STE A
Suisun City, CA 94585
Complaint Comments Example:
Equilibrium Tuning INC sells automotive parts and services to consumers. The company sells an aftermarket air intake system that is a replacement for the original equipment manufacturer’s product supplied with several Audi and Volkswagen models. The product Equilibrium Tuning sells is manufactured by Blaze Perfomance, retails for $550, and is advertised using the following claims: “The Blaze Performance AToM V2 Air Intake System is one of the best-performing and flowing options on the market as verified by independent testing.”
None of the claims are substantiated by Equilibrium Tuning INC. The products are being sold based on objective performance attributes that are supposedly better than those of the products the consumer already owns without providing evidence in support of the claims. I am requesting your office investigate Equilibrium Tuning INC for violation of Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act.