The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has taken decisive action, instructing Intuit to cease the deceptive promotion of its tax preparation software, TurboTax, as “free” unless it genuinely provides free access for all consumers. The order is a response to the watchdog’s investigation, uncovering a years-long deceptive advertising campaign by Intuit, including high-profile displays during the Super Bowl and the 2022 NCAA Basketball Tournament. The investigation revealed that despite TurboTax’s “free” claims, approximately two-thirds of U.S. tax filers could not utilize the service without incurring charges when filing.
The FTC’s order aims to put an end to misleading TurboTax ads, insisting that Intuit refrains from promoting tax products and services as “free” if a significant portion of the American population doesn’t qualify for the free offerings. Additionally, the order mandates clear and conspicuous disclosure of the percentage of taxpayers or consumers eligible for the free service. The directive also prohibits Intuit from disseminating false information regarding critical aspects of its products or services, including pricing, refund policies, eligibility for tax credits or deductions, and the ability to accurately file taxes online without relying on TurboTax’s paid service.
In response to the FTC’s order, Intuit’s Senior Manager for Communications, Tania Mercado, expressed dissatisfaction, labeling the decision as deeply flawed. Mercado highlighted the company’s appeal, stating that they believe Intuit will prevail when the matter is reviewed by a neutral body.