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WASHINGTON-The Federal Trade Commission last week confirmed what much of the world hoped and prayed for decades would happen-the Cold War's over.

In a bold move to eliminate rarely used regulations, the FTC officially nuked its decades-old guidelines for advertising and promoting nuclear fallout shelters and radiation monitors. But lest anyone think the commission's unanimous decision to eliminate the guidelines is an all-clear to duplicitous shelter peddlers, think again; They're still liable for unfair or deceptive practices.

As for the legitimate, God-fearing rest of the globe, it's time to adapt to peace and learn how to live without the bomb or shelter. That was not so likely a scenario back in the radioactive 1960s, when the FTC drafted the guidelines and nuclear blast drills of crawling under skimpy wooden desks were a self-protection ritual at most grade and high schools.

But as the commission noted, the once-mushrooming shelter market just hasn't been able to sustain itself in the glaring light of peace.

"The commission has determined that the market for home civil defense blast or fallout shelters and devices for measuring the accumulation or intensity of gamma radiation from a nuclear attack is small and advertising for these products rare," it noted. Indeed, its September 1992 proposal to eliminate the guidelines elicited exactly one response, from Robert Gallagher, president of Houston-based Nuclear Sources & Services, marketer of radiation monitoring devices, and he reluctantly agreed with the FTC.

"With Russia .|.|. in disarray, you couldn't sell a fallout shelter or radiation instrument to the public even if you promised immortality in your advertising," Mr. Gallagher bemoaned.

Besides, the commission duly noted, there's always been kind of a problem with proving or disproving the ad claims for shelters. After all, the FTC has no record of a shelter customer complaining that the doggone thing just didn't do what it was supposed to when the post-blast temperatures reached somewhere past a million degrees Celsius, or that the concrete blockhouse worked just fine except for the ceiling crack.

Hence, when it came to advertising, "money back if not completely protected" was not allowed under the now-dropped FTC guidelines, nor was any misrepresentation about the extent to which the marketer would repair or replace a shelter that failed to live up to its billing.M


Market disintegration: The nuclear-disaster industry will no longer have the FTC breathing down its neck.

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