APRIL 2012

FTC affirms use of “recycled” for used parts

The Automotive Recyclers Association (ARA) urges those in the collision repair industry who question the use of the term “recycled” to describe the commerce of used parts to review more closely the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) ruling of May 1, 1998 on this issue.

Specifically, ARA’s concerns are prompted by recent press accounts that allege that the use of the term “recycled” to describe used auto parts is misleading. In 1998, the FTC in their Environmental Marketing Guides took into account consumer perceptions and determined that “recycled” is acceptable in promoting used automotive parts. The revisions, published in the Federal Register in May, 1998, state that with regard to the used automotive parts market that the “unqualified use of the word ‘recycled’” is not deceptive.

Since their inception, the U.S. FTC Green Guides were intended to help reduce consumer confusion and prevent the false or misleading use of environmental terms in the advertising and labeling of products in the marketplace. From the beginning, the Commission ruled in its Green Guides that it is better for the environment to recycle by reusing, since reuse is likely to consume fewer resources than recycling from raw materials.

In their final revised Green Guides in 1998, the FTC offered a specific example from the automotive industry to make it clear that reuse is a form of recycling. The representation in the document confirmed that it is acceptable to describe a serviceable engine from a vehicle that has been totaled that is offered for resale as recycled. Additionally, the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection brochure entitled “Facts for Consumers, Sorting Out ‘Green’ Advertising Claims” published in April 1999 explicitly states the following: “For example, a used auto parts store may sell used automobile parts that have been salvaged from other cars and label them ‘recycled’ without any other description because it is plain that they are used parts.” Since the Bureau’s mission is to protect consumers, it is quite reasonable to deem that these objective third-party conclusions are based on sound principles.

Finally, it should also be noted that this determination has been reaffirmed several times by the Commission since 1998. The most recent confirmation being in a FTC Consumer Alert, July 2011 that states that, “a recycled part is a part that was made for and installed in a new vehicle by the manufacturer or the original equipment manufacturer, and later removed from the vehicle and made available for resale or reuse.”

The issue of the automotive recycling industry’s appropriate use of the term recycled has been thoroughly addressed by the FTC.

ARA commends the Commission for protecting consumers while recognizing legitimate business activity and urges all in the collision repair industry to do the same.