Commission authorization of the filing of staff comments: The Commission has authorized the staffs of the Office of Policy Planning, Bureau of Economics, Bureau of Competition, and Bureau of Consumer Protection to submit joint comments to the Florida State Bar regarding proposed revisions to the Florida Rules of Professional Conduct pertaining to computer-accessed communications. According to the comments, the State Bar is seeking input regarding a proposed rule that would reclassify computer-accessed communications as advertising and subject them to rules restricting the use of some forms of truthful and non-misleading advertising. Currently, the rule governing computer-accessed communications classifies all Internet Web sites as “information provided to a prospective client at the prospective client’s request,” but does not require that they be filed with, or reviewed by, the Bar.
The proposed rule would prohibit comparative claims that have not been verified objectively from appearing in any forms of computer-accessed communications and would prohibit descriptive statements from appearing on computer-accessed communications other than Web sites. The rule also would prohibit attorneys from reporting past success and using testimonials in homepages and electronic solicitations. Further, the proposed rule would require computer-accessed communications, except for home pages and Web sites, to be filed with and reviewed by the Bar.
The FTC staff’s comments state its concern that the proposed rule would unnecessarily restrict truthful and non-misleading advertising and may result in higher prices paid for legal services and less choice for Florida consumers. Accordingly, the staff recommends that the Bar either reject the proposed rule or modify it to address competitive concerns and avoid frustrating informed consumer choice.
The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the comments with the Florida State Bar was 5-0. A copy of the comments can be found on the FTC’s Web site and as a link to this press release. (FTC File No. V070002; the staff contact is Gustav P. Chiarello, Office of Policy Planning, 202-326-2633.)
Copies of the documents mentioned in this release are available from the FTC’s Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20580. Call toll-free: 1-877-FTC-HELP.
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