BBB National Programs Archive

NAD Recommends 3M Modify, Discontinue Certain Claims for ‘EARfit’ Products Following Honeywell Challenge

New York, NY – Feb. 23, 2015 – The National Advertising Division has recommended that the 3M Company modify or discontinue certain claims for its hearing protection fit-testing products, the  EARfit and EARfit Dual Ear Validation Systems.

NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation. It is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

A fit-test system allows employers to assess whether hearing protection devices used by their employees provide adequate hearing protection and counsel employees on how to use hearing protection devices properly and which hearing protection devices provide a safe amount of hearing protection.  3M competes with Honeywell in the professional hearing protection market, selling earplugs, ear muffs, and its own fit-test system, the EARfit system.  3M has disseminated print advertisements to leading industry publications that compare 3M’s EARfit hearing protection fit-testing system to Honeywell’s Howard Leight VeriPRO hearing protection fit-testing system.  The advertisements feature a side-by-side comparison of EARfit and VeriPRO and make an overall superiority claim that EARfit is “simply the best earplug fit-testing system available” and that the “best fit-testing system just got better.”  The advertisement includes a checklist comparing six performance criteria of EARfit and VeriPRO, giving VeriPRO five red “x” marks compared to five green check marks for EARfit.

NAD concluded that the challenged advertising conveys an overall superiority message and recommended that the advertiser discontinue its use of of red circles with “x” marks beside attributes of VeriPRO and green circles with check marks beside attributes of EARfit.”  NAD further recommended that the claim, “Our best fit-testing system just got better – see what sets it apart,” be modified to eliminate the phrase, “see what sets it apart,” thereby limiting the claim, “our best” to a comparison to the advertiser’s products, or be discontinued.

NAD recommended that 3M modify claims in its checklist that VeriPRO is “slow” and EARfit is “even faster” to more accurately compare the difference in speed of fit-testing using VeriPRO and EARfit.  NAD determined that without the “x” and red and green circles, the advertiser can avoid conveying the unsupported message that a “subjective” system is inferior overall to an “objective” system.

NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue use of the descriptors, that VeriPRO is “limited” while EARfit is “more versatile,” as well as VeriPRO “Failed Study,” and EARfit “Passed Study,” and that VeriPRO is “uncertain” and that “variability/uncertainty factors are not indicated in test results.”

3M, in its advertiser’s statement, said the company “respectfully disagrees with parts of NAD’s decision.  However, 3M values the self-regulatory process and accepts NAD’s recommendations.”

Note: A recommendation by NAD to modify or discontinue a claim is not a finding of wrongdoing and an advertiser’s voluntary discontinuance or modification of claims should not be construed as an admission of impropriety. It is the policy of NAD not to endorse any company, product, or service. Decisions finding that advertising claims have been substantiated should not be construed as endorsements.