Timing is Everything: CARU Bonks Wham-O for Inadequate Disclosures

On December 5, 2008, The Children’s Advertising Review Unit (”CARU,”) a division of the Better Business Bureau, issue a press release admonishing advertisers to make clear disclosure about the need for adult supervision with certain toys, particularly when those toys are advertised directly to children.

CARU highlighted a new product from Wham-O, called the Slip ‘N’ Slide Mega Shark, a water toy for children’s play. The toy was advertised on Nickelodeon during a time when children are the primary viewing audience.

CARU questioned whether a small graphic disclosure on the screen was sufficient to inform children that no one over 5’ tall or weighing over 110 pounds should use the toy. Moreover, CARU expressed concern that because the disclosure was not properly made, the toy might be misused by children.

The lack of adequate disclosure was only one of the concerns CARU expressed. CARU also worried that the commercial should have shown adequate adult supervision, noting there was only a brief showing of a woman watching the children play on the slide. Overall, CARU found, the commercial did not meet CARU’s voluntary requirements.

Case law supports CARU’s contention that more precautions should be taken. In particular, with water sliding devices, the weight and height requirement is important, as spinal cord injuries, rendering users unable to walk, have been reported, and numerous law suits have dealt with this issue.

Practice Note: In an era of childhood obesity, it is not unusual for children to weight over 110 pounds. Clients CARU is self-regulatory and speaks softly, but carries a big stick. In cases where an advertiser refuses to alter its ad campaign, CARU can (and will) refer matters directly to the Federal Trade Commission for prosecution. Moreover, CARU can alert the CPSC if it believes the product or its advertising present a problem.

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