Sony Settles With FTC Over False Advertising


FTC Complaint Against Deutsch LA

The FTC’s complaint against Deutsch LA charges the company with similarly misleading consumers through ads that it created touting the PS Vita’s cross-platform gaming and 3G features.

The Commission also alleges that Deutsch LA misled consumers with deceptive product endorsements for the PS Vita. Specifically, the agency used the term “#gamechanger” in its ads to direct consumers to online conversations about Sony’s console on Twitter. About a month before the gaming console was launched, one of Deutsch LA’s assistant account executives sent a company-wide email to staff asking them to help with the ad campaign by posting comments about the PS Vita on Twitter and using the same  “#gamechanger” hashtag, according to the complaint.

In response to the company-wide email, various Deutsch LA employees posted positive tweets about the PS Vita to their personal Twitter accounts, without disclosing their connection to Deutsch or Sony, the FTC alleged. The FTC has charged that the tweets were misleading, as they did not reflect the views of actual consumers who had used the PS Vita, and because they did not disclose that they were written by employees of Deutsch LA.

Proposed Settlement Orders

The proposed settlement orders prohibit both Sony and Deutsch LA from making similar misrepresentations in the future when promoting the features or capabilities of handheld gaming consoles. The proposed order against Deutsch LA also bars it from misrepresenting that an endorser of any game console product or video game product is an independent user or ordinary consumer of the product. In addition, the proposed order requires Deutsch LA to disclose a material connection, where one exists, between any endorser of a game console product or video game product and Deutsch LA or other entity involved in the manufacture or marketing of the product. These requirements are in line with the FTC’s Endorsement Guides,

The proposed order against Sony requires it to send email notifications to all consumers it can reasonably identify as having bought a PS Vita before June 1, 2012.

Information for Consumers

The FTC has information for consumers about how to detect and avoid advertisements that may be deceptive or misleading, including a new blog post, Sony Ads Shouldn’t Play Games.

The Commission vote to accept both proposed consent orders for public comment was 5-0. The FTC will publish a description of the consent agreement packages in the Federal Register shortly. The agreement will be subject to public comment for 30 days, beginning today and continuing through December 29, 2014, after which the Commission will decide whether to make them final. Public comments can be filed on the proposed order regarding Sony. Comments also can be filed on the proposed order regarding Deutsch LA.

NOTE: The Commission issues an administrative complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of up to $16,000.

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

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