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Marketing Laws and Regulations in the U.S.

As marketers, we often develop tunnel vision in our work, focusing strictly on the strategic or creative side of marketing projects. We sometimes, unintentionally, overlook the legal aspects that could stop our campaigns (and careers) dead in their tracks. As marketers, it’s our responsibility to know and understand the marketing laws and regulations that can affect marketing activities and the laws protecting consumers. If we ignore these laws, we can end up paying a hefty price in legal fee’s, loss of company revenues, reputation, and even our jobs.

As a starting point for your legal understanding, the list below outlines some of the better known, and important, U.S. laws and regulations affecting marketing activities and consumer protection.

Marketing Laws and Regulations

The marketing laws and regulations listed below are for educational purposes only. It is each marketing managers and organizations responsibility to seek professional legal advice, from a licensed attorney, for their specific legal requirements.

Federal Legislation Effecting Marketers

Sherman Act of 1890 – Makes trusts and conspiracies in restraint of trade illegal. It also makes monopolies and any attempt to monopolize a misdemeanor.

Clayton Act of 1914 – The act outlaws discrimination in prices to different buyers. It prohibits tying contracts, which means requiring buyers of one product to also buy another item in the line. And, it makes illegal the combining of two or more competing corporations by pooling ownership of stock.

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Act of 1914 – This legislation created the Federal Trade Commission to deal with antitrust matters as well as outlaws unfair methods of competition.

Robinson-Patman Act of 1936 – This prohibits organizations charging different prices to different buyers of merchandise of like grade and quantity. It also requires sellers to make any supplementary services or allowances available to all purchasers on a proportionately equal basis.

Wheeler-Lea Amendments to the FTC Act of 1938 – This broadens the Federal Trade Commission’s power to prohibit practices that might injure the public without affecting competition. It also outlaws false and deceptive advertising.

Laham Act of 1946 – This act established protection for trademarks.

Celler-Kefauver Antimerger Act of 1950 – Strengthens the Clayton Act to prevent corporate acquisitions that reduce competition.

Hart-Scott-Rodino Act of 1976 – Legislation that requires large companies to notify the government of their intent to merge.

Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act ( also known as the Financial Services Modernization Act) – Requires financial companies to tell their customers how they use their personal information and to have policies that prevent fraudulent access to it.

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act – Limits the disclosure of individuals’ medical information and imposes penalties on organizations that violate privacy rules.

U.S. Laws Protecting Consumers

The marketing laws and regulations that protect consumers, listed below, are the primary laws. This list is not a comprehensive list. If you have legal questions, you should seek legal advice from a business attorney.

Federal Food and Drug Act of 1906 – This act prohibits adulteration and misbranding of foods and drugs involved in interstate commerce.

Federal Hazardous Substances Act of 1960 – Requires warning labels on hazardous household chemicals.

Kefauver-Harris Drug Amendment of 1962 – Requires drug manufacturers conduct tests to prove drug effectiveness and safety.

Consumer Credit Protection Act of 1968 – Requires lenders to fully disclose true interest rates and all other charges to credit customers for loans and installment purchases.

Child Protection and Toy Safety Act of 1969 – Prevents marketing of dangerous products where adequate safety warnings cannot be given.

Public Health Smoking Act of 1970 – Prohibits cigarette adverting on TV and radio and revises the health hazard warning on cigarette packages.

Poison Prevention Labeling Act of 1970 – Requires safety packaging for products that can harm children.

National Environmental Policy Act of 1970 – Established the Environmental Protection Agency to deal with various types of pollution and organizations that create pollution.

Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act of 1971 – Prohibits tobacco advertising on TV and radio.

Consumer Product Safety Act of 1972 – Created the Consumer Product Safety Commission. This entity has authority to specify safety for most products.

Child Protection Act of 1990 – Regulates the total minutes of advertising on children’s television.

Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 – This act empowers the FTC to set rules about how and when marketers must get parental permission before asking children marketing research questions.

Aviation Security Act of 2001 – This Act, post 9-11, requires airlines to take extra security measures to protect passengers, including installation of stronger cockpit doors, improved baggage screening, and increased security training for airport staff.

Homeland Security Act of 2002 – This protects consumers against terrorists acts. The Act created the Department of Homeland Security.

Do Not Call Law of 2003 (National Do Not Call Registry) – Protects consumers against unwanted telemarketing calls.

CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 – Protects consumers against unwanted e-mail (or spam).

As a last note, the above list of marketing laws and regulations is a partial list of the laws and legislation affecting marketers in the U.S. Each state also has legislation and laws that affect marketers specific to that state. Marketers are responsible to know the applicable state laws and apply them to their marketing plans and strategy. Marketers who are proactive and understand the applicable legislation and laws can help prevent future legal ramifications as well as loss of potential revenue and profits for the company’s they work for.

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