ERSP Frequently Asked Questions

What is the purpose of the program?

To improve consumer confidence and to demonstrate to the FTC that ERA is committed to helping companies within the industry comply with existing regulations. We also strive to provide a quick and efficient review process to alert members, and in some cases the FTC, of noncompliant companies.

What are the benefits to ERA members?

ERSP creates a level playing field for direct-to-consumer commerce industry professionals. It also increases industry credibility and pride, making sure consumers can shop with confidence. 

What is the Federal Trade Commission’s opinion on ERA’s Self-Regulation Program?

The FTC has reviewed our plan and generally is very favorable of it, as they share our frustration that a few bad players taint the direct response industry. The FTC has made it clear however, that our members should understand that this is not a “free pass.” In other words, advertising that meets the standards of the review process may still be subject to challenge by the FTC and others. They may in some cases challenge things that our plan does not evaluate. For example, our review process will not extensively examine clinical trials, etc.

How is the program structured?

We use the Advertising Self-Regulatory Council (ASRC) (formerly known as NARC) to administer the program. This division retains an attorney who reports directly to ASRC and not to ERA or to ERA's board of directors.

Will all advertising campaigns be reviewed?

The majority of direct-to-consumer advertising campaigns reviewed are long and short form infomercials. The review, however, applies to all aspects of a marketing campaign, including radio and Internet marketing efforts. In addition, advertising on TV shopping channels is subject to review. ERSP also reviews pop-up advertising. 

How are advertising or programs referred?

There are a couple of ways that advertising can be referred: An ERA member may refer a campaign, a consumer or advocacy group may refer a campaign, or the program attorney may pick a campaign to refer. They may use the IMS or the Jordan Whitney reports to determine program popularity, etc. They will use fair and consistent criteria to decide which campaigns to review based on the numbers of consumers affected, the potential for consumer harm and how egregious the advertising appears to be. ERA does not refer advertising.

How many campaigns will be reviewed in a month?

Approximately seven to 10 campaigns will be reviewed in a month. Remember, this review will not be as extensive as the NAD process and, therefore, more cases can be reviewed.

Will the marketer know that their campaign is being reviewed?

Yes – the marketer will be notified.

What happens next?

If the campaign being reviewed is found to be in compliance, no further action is taken and the marketer will be notified of the outcome. The marketer may not, however, use this decision in any of their marketing material. If more information is requested, the marketer has 15 days to provide the information. The only information required would be supporting evidence that is directly relevant to the concerns. If the marketer fails to provide the information, the program administrator will assume that the program is noncompliant. The marketer may also request a meeting. All reviews will be completed within 60 days.

What happens if a campaign is noncompliant?

The marketer will be notified of the reasons and given the opportunity to withdraw the campaign or make changes. If the marketer fails to comply, the program will be referred to the FTC or another appropriate regulatory body.

What will the FTC do with cases that are referred?

The FTC has indicated that they will give these cases more priority over others.

What will be looked for when reviewing a program?

  • Substantiated evidence that supports claims made in the advertisement or program.
  • Substantiation of claims: Does the substantiation address the claims being made?
  • Does the substantiation meet general standards of competent and reliable scientific evidence?

Will the results of these reviews be made public?

Yes, the results of noncompliant programs are included in ASRC reports, ASRC press releases, ERA's e-newsletter and on ERA’s website.

Can an ERA member remain in the association if their campaign is found to be noncompliant?

If the member takes corrective action that is satisfactory or pulls the program altogether, then that company can remain a member. If, however, they fail to adhere to the decision, they will be expelled from the membership.

What about the service providers?Will they be able to conduct business with companies that have noncompliant programs?

ERA suppliers have the benefit of information that will assist them in making decisions regarding whether to do business with those companies that do not adhere to these decisions. ERA hopes that the membership chooses not to do business with violators.