Judge Decides TurboTax Broke Law for Advertising as “Free”

The Federal Trade Commission’s chief administrative law judge has ruled that Intuit violated US law with deceptive advertising for TurboTax. The ruling requires Intuit to stop promoting TurboTax as “free” unless all conditions for the free offer are prominently displayed to consumers. This decision is subject to review by the full commission but may result in a 20-year order if it survives appeal. Intuit plans to challenge the decision in federal court, stating that it already adheres to most of the advertising practices outlined in the FTC’s ruling and anticipates no significant impact on its business.

The ruling found that Intuit engaged in deceptive advertising, falsely claiming that consumers could file their taxes online for free using TurboTax. The order sets strict requirements for clear and conspicuous disclosures in various communication formats. Additionally, Intuit had previously settled a separate case with all 50 US states and the District of Columbia, agreeing to pay $141 million in restitution to consumers who were misled by its “free” ad campaign. In response, Intuit criticized the FTC’s decision, citing a flawed process and alleged bias.