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Federal Trade Commission v. Colgate-Palmolive Co.

United States Supreme Court
380 U.S. 374 (1965)


Facts

Colgate-Palmolive Co. (Colgate) (defendant) sold a shaving cream called Rapid Shave. Colgate advertised Rapid Shave as possessing powerful moisturizing abilities. To drive the point home, Colgate staged a “sandpaper test” to be used in commercials. The sandpaper test showed Rapid Shave being applied to sandpaper. The sandpaper was immediately shaved clean, demonstrating Rapid Shave’s moisturizing ability. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) (plaintiff) filed a complaint, arguing that the Rapid Shave commercials were deceptive within the meaning of § 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTC Act). The FTC presented evidence that a piece of sandpaper would need to be soaked in Rapid Shave for 80 minutes before the sandpaper could be shaved clean. The commercials also used fake sandpaper made from plexiglass and sand. The hearing examiner dismissed the FTC’s complaint, but the commission reversed that decision and entered a cease and desist order against Colgate. The order prohibited Colgate from using undisclosed simulations in commercials. Colgate appealed the order to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, which held that the FTC’s enforcement order was too vague. The FTC petitioned for a writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Warren, C. J.)

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