The two biggest tire groups in the U.S. were surprised by the decision of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently to abolish the Tire Advertising and Labeling Guides it first issued nearly seven decades ago.
Voting 4-0-1 on Sept. 17 with one of five commissioners absent, the commission determined the Tire Guides have been rendered obsolete by changes in the tire market and in government regulation. When the FTC called for comments on the guides last fall, the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) and the Tire Industry Association (TIA) suggested changes in the documents, but not their total removal.
The Tire Guides describe and are designed to prevent false or misleading advertising by tire dealers and manufacturers. The FTC had the power to take legal action if violations of the guides occurred.
An RMA spokesman said Sept. 17 his group was still studying the FTC decision. ``But based on the fact that the commission found that the provisions of the guides are addressed by other laws, this appears to be a very reasonable decision,'' he added.
TIA expressed surprise and mild concern at the elimination of the guides, though it added that their ruling won't have much of an impact on the tire industry.
``It's because these guides have been in place for so long that the industry's advertising practices are running smoothly,'' said Roy E. Littlefield III, TIA executive vice president. ``By removing the guides, it is possible, although we hope unlikely, that dishonest retailers could misrepresent their products to consumers.''
Of the two organizations, TIA strongly supported retaining the guides in comments to the FTC last October.
``The benefit of the guides to the consumer is protection from unscrupulous business owners and more readily available information on tire labels when making a purchase,'' said Becky MacDicken, TIA government affairs director.
But Ann Wilson, then-senior vice president of government affairs for the RMA, argued that the tire guides would remain useful only if substantially revised. ``RMA believes most of the unfair trade practices specifically addressed in the guides have been virtually eliminated from today's tire market,'' she wrote.
Ms. MacDicken and Ms. Wilson agreed on some issues, such as that the guides should reflect the growth of Internet and phone tire sales, but they disagreed on others: Ms. Wilson urged the deletion of provisions covering plies and cord materials, whereas Ms. MacDicken argued for their retention.
In its decision to kill the guides, the FTC noted the documents were written at a time when service stations and local stores dominated tire sales. The addition of Internet sales, national and regional retailers and new car dealerships have rendered the guides increasingly irrelevant, it said.
The dominance of retail tires, the availability of mileage warranties and the establishment of government information programs such as Uniform Tire Quality Grading also detract from the guides' usefulness, the agency said.
The FTC first issued the Tire Labeling and Advertising Guides in 1936. It revised them completely in 1968, then made a minor change in 1994 to allow terms other than ``retread'' in the advertising of retreaded tires.