WASHINGTON-The Federal Trade Commission has finally ruled that terms other than ``retread'' may be used to describe retreaded tires-five years after first being petitioned on the issue. ``With the amendments (to the FTC Tire Advertising and Labeling Guides), sellers have fewer restrictions on how to advertise their tires, so long as the advertisements clearly and conspicuously disclose that the retreaded tires are not new,'' the commission said of its unanimous Dec. 10 ruling.
This issue-which has created considerable controversy between different factions of the retreading industry-was welcomed by Achievor Tire L.P. of Chicago, formerly Lakin General Inc.'s Retread Division. In 1988, Lakin first approached the FTC for the change, to allow the use of the word ``remanufactured'' to describe its Achievor brand bead-to-bead remolded tires in advertisements.
``We're very pleased the FTC agrees with our position,'' said Richard Gust, Achievor Tire president. ``We're trying to establish `remanufactured' as the term for what we do in our factory.''
Elsewhere, the FTC decision received indifferent comment.
``I think our arguments at the time were pretty complete,'' said Marvin Bozarth, executive director of the American Retreaders' Association, which had petitioned the FTC to change the Tire Guides. ``The main thing is not to mislead anyone in your product advertising.''
The National Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association, which had fought the rule change, said it doubted now if the decision would make much difference. ``I haven't seen an ad for passenger retreads in a long time,'' said C.D. ``Tony'' Hylton, NTDRA public relations director. ``The genesis of the issue was Sears, and they're not even putting out a catalog anymore.''
Sears, Roebuck and Co. sells the Achievor in both passenger and light truck sizes. Big O Tires also sells the Achievor in its stores, according to Mr. Gust, and uses ``remanufactured'' in its advertising.
``The NTDRA's comments show it still does not support passenger retreading,'' Mr. Gust said. ``I do not know why the NTDRA would not support its retreader membership, at least as far as passenger retreads are concerned.''
Mr. Gust first publicized the issue in April 1988, when he said Lakin and Sears had been in discussions with the FTC for over a year to allow use of the term ``remanufactured'' in advertisements.
The ARA and the Tread Rubber Manufacturers Group formally petitioned the FTC Aug. 18, 1988, to allow the use of terms other than ``retread.'' ``Retread'' was too narrow a term for the many manufacturing processes used in the industry, the associations claimed.
The NTDRA, however, opposed the petition, insisting bead-to-bead remolds were merely another kind of retread and the term ``remanufactured'' was unjustified and could mislead consumers.
In September 1990, the FTC called for public comments on the issue, in response to the NTDRA's request for a public review. Based on comments it received, the commission decided to change the Tire Guides to allow the use of advertising terms other than ``retread,'' with the proviso that such terms not mislead buyers into thinking the tires are new.
Limiting tire sellers to the term ``retread,'' the FTC said, ``may have the effect of inhibiting innovation by limiting the ability of manufacturers to distinguish their products in the marketplace.''