NARB ProgramBackgrounds

National Advertising Review Board

The National Advertising Review Board (NARB) is the advertising self-regulation industry’s appellate body. Five-member NARB panels hear cases appealing an NAD or CARU decision and provide independent industry peer review, ensuring truthfulness and accuracy in national advertising and helping promote voluntary compliance of its decisions—a key pillar of industry self-regulation.  

Program Impact

NARB, established in 1971 as a fair and impartial appellate body, reviews appealed NAD or CARU decisions. Nominated by various leading organizations in the advertising industry, NARB members are selected for their stature and experience in their fields. 

 

 

Truth & Transparency

When a competitor’s advertising harms consumer trust or threatens a company’s reputation and market share, the advertising self-regulatory system creates a level-playing field for business and helps ensure consumers receive truthful and accurate advertising.

Compliance

After a decision, NARB or the challenger can check in on whether the advertiser has made appropriate modifications to its advertising and has 10 days to respond. The case is closed if there is a good faith effort to bring their advertising into compliance.

Non-Compliance

In cases of lack of good faith efforts to modify or discontinue advertising as a result of a NARB decision, NARB will refer the case to an appropriate government agency, usually the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
 

For the last 50 years in the advertising industry, companies have held each other to a higher standard. In response to the pressures and criticisms of consumerism that had mounted during the previous decade, in 1971 the advertising industry established the National Advertising Division (NAD) and National Advertising Review Board (NARB), the U.S. mechanism of independent self-regulation that has stood the test of time and technological innovation.

 

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Guidelines & Procedures


Any advertiser or challenger has the right to appeal NAD’s decision to NARB.  An advertiser has an automatic right of appeal. A challenger must request permission to appeal from the NARB chair and explain why it believes there is a substantial likelihood NARB would come to a different conclusion on a case than NAD. 

 

News & Blog

Press Release

BBB National Programs Announces 85 Distinguished Members of 2021 National Advertising Review Board Panel

McLean, VA – January 5, 2021 – BBB National Programs today announced the 2021 Panel Pool Members for its National Advertising Review Board, the appellate body for the U.S. advertising industry’s system of self-regulation. The National Advertising Review Board panel pool members, selected for their stature and experience in their fields,...
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Press Release

BBB National Programs Partners with Facebook to Strengthen Truth-in-Advertising Enforcement on the Social Network's U.S. Platform

New York, NY – December 2, 2020 – Taking an important step to advance the effectiveness of its quick and efficient self-regulatory programs, BBB National Programs today announced a new National Advertising Division (NAD) partnership with Facebook. 

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Understanding Dark Patterns: How To Stay Out Of The Gray Areas

May 19, 2021, 15:10 PM by Eric D. Reicin, President & CEO, BBB National Programs
Where is the line between ethical, persuasive design and dark patterns? Businesses should engage in conversations with IT, compliance, risk, and legal teams to review their privacy policy, and include in the discussion the customer/user experience designers and coders responsible for the company’s user interface, as well as the marketers and advertisers responsible for sign-ups, checkout baskets, pricing, and promotions. Any or all these teams can play a role in creating or avoiding “digital deception.”

We have all encountered them, in both our personal and professional lives. Think about the times you felt tricked or frustrated by a membership or subscription that had a seamless signup process but was later difficult to cancel. Something that should be simple and transparent can be complicated, intentionally or unintentionally, in ways that impair consumer choice. These are examples of dark patterns.

First coined in 2010 by user experience expert Harry Brignull, “dark patterns” is a catch-all term for practices that manipulate user interfaces to influence the decision-making ability of users. On darkpatterns.org, Brignull identifies 12 types of common dark patterns, ranging from misdirection and hidden costs to “roach motel,” where a user experience seems easy and intuitive at the start, but turns difficult when the user tries to get out.

In a 2019 study of 53,000 product pages and 11,000 websites, researchers found that about one in 10 employs these design practices. Though widely prevalent, the concept of dark patterns is still not well understood. Business and nonprofit leaders should be aware of dark patterns and try to avoid the gray areas they engender.

As U.S. FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra recently said, “Dark patterns are the online successor to decades of dirty dealing in direct mail marketing.” Chopra, who President Biden recently nominated to serve as the Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, said dark patterns “pose an even bigger menace than their paper precursors.”

Like all things digital, dark patterns have no geographic or physical limitations, and consequently, can deceive people on a far greater scale. 

Where is the line between ethical, persuasive design and dark patterns? Businesses should engage in conversations with IT, compliance, risk, and legal teams to review their privacy policy, and include in the discussion the customer/user experience designers and coders responsible for the company’s user interface, as well as the marketers and advertisers responsible for sign-ups, checkout baskets, pricing, and promotions. Any or all these teams can play a role in creating or avoiding “digital deception.”

Lawmakers and regulators are slowly starting to address the ambiguity around dark patterns, most recently at the state level. In March, the California Attorney General announced the approval of additional regulations under the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) that “ensure that consumers will not be confused or misled when seeking to exercise their data privacy rights.” The regulations aim to ban dark patterns — this means prohibiting companies from using "confusing language or unnecessary steps such as forcing them to click through multiple screens or listen to reasons why they shouldn’t opt out.”

At the federal level, in September 2020 the FTC issued a complaint against a company that operates a subscription service that serves content to young children for deploying “tricks to lure families into signing up for its service, and traps to prevent them from canceling.” In a statement about the case, FTC Commissioner Chopra said the FTC “needs to methodically use all of our tools to shine a light on unlawful digital dark patterns, and we need to contain the spread of this popular, profitable, and problematic business practice.”

The FTC is convening researchers, legal experts, consumer advocates and industry professionals at the end of April for a workshop to explore this issue further. Legislation has also been introduced in the U.S. Senate that would prohibit "manipulating a user’s interface to compel compulsive usage, including auto-play, for sites that are directed at users under the age of 13.”

Dark patterns have been on the radar of my organization, BBB National Programs, for several years, especially within our National Advertising Division (NAD). There are many practices that fall under the umbrella of "dark patterns," but the ones we have focused on the most are cases with misleading price presentation and obscured terms and conditions.

One example of this is our recommendation to Fabletics, an online retailer of fitness wear, offering discount prices with a “VIP membership” that required a monthly purchase of fitness wear. When consumers acted on the offer, the user interface took consumers through a long purchase flow, including a quiz about their size, style and fitness preferences before disclosing that a subscription was required to purchase the product at the advertised price. After NAD suggested the company apply FTC guidance on clear and conspicuous disclosures, Fabletics voluntarily modified these practices to disclose that its discounted prices were available only with a monthly subscription both in the initial sales offer and on its website when consumers viewed their athletic wear purchase options. 

As more states consider promulgating additional regulations, there is a need for greater accountability from within the business community. Dark patterns also can be addressed on a self-regulatory basis, but only if organizations hold themselves accountable, not just to legal requirements but also to industry best practices and standards:

  1. Make clear when content is advertising, and avoid navigating consumers to a website with misleading links.
  2. Collect personal information only after clearly disclosing what information is being collected and what will be done with it.
  3. Design a consumer-focused user experience, which can take many forms. A consumer-focused user experience often includes:
    • Avoiding or limiting pre-checked options for upgrades, subscriptions and add-ons.
    • Eliminating fictitious claims such as “Jessica S. from Ann Arbor just bought 10 of these!” along with fake clocks or stock quantity counters.
    • Avoiding purchase screens that hide material terms of a purchase. Ideally, consumers should be able to see all purchase terms on a single screen, including costs associated with add-ons or other surprise fees. Following the FTC’s Dot Com Disclosures guidance can help businesses avoid many dark patterns related to misleading disclosures.
    • Avoiding designs that undermine consumer choice, including the use of text colors and placement that highlight or obscure choices, for example, a grayed-out button for rejecting privacy-protective options and a colorful, action-oriented button that provides less privacy protection.

 

Let us make earning consumer trust more than just a box-checking exercise. When building digital products and services, let us be vigilant about dark patterns, making it a constant practice to stay out of the gray areas, and to avoid the creation of them ourselves. 

Originally published on Forbes.

 

 

 

Decisions

Decision

NARB Recommends doTERRA Discontinue Certain Health Benefit and “Therapeutic Grade” Essential Oil Claims

New York, NY – March 31, 2021 – A panel of the National Advertising Review Board (NARB) has recommended that doTERRA International, LLC discontinue a “Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade” claim as well as any use of the term “therapeutic grade” to describe doTERRA’s products. 

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Decision

NARB Recommends AT&T Disclose Material Connections When Citing Testing Company Data, Modify “Building 5G on America’s Best Network” Claim

A panel of the National Advertising Review Board (NARB) has recommended that AT&T Services, Inc. clearly and conspicuously disclose its material connection to Global Wireless Solutions (GWS) when making a “Best Network” claim that is based on GWS testing. The NARB panel also recommended that...

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Decision

National Advertising Division Finds Certain Claims for Crest Whitening Emulsions Supported; Recommends Discontinuation or Modification of Others

New York, NY – June 8, 2021 – The National Advertising Division (NAD) determined that The Procter & Gamble Company (P&G) provided a reasonable basis for claims that its Crest Whitening Emulsions provide “better” or “100% whiter” results and that it “whitens better” than P&G’s own...

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Decision

Claims Comparing TVision Live Service to Cable TV Discontinued Due to T-Mobile’s Termination of the Service During National Advertising Division Challenge

New York, NY – May 25, 2021 – T-Mobile USA, Inc. informed the National Advertising Division (NAD) of BBB National Programs that it has permanently discontinued challenged claims made in connection with its TVision Live service, including that TVision Live is half the price of cable...

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