(Reuters) – A federal judge on Friday refused to block TurboTax maker Intuit Inc. from displaying ads for “free” tax returns that the Federal Trade Commission said cheated millions of taxpayers.
U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco rejected the FTC’s request for a preliminary injunction for three reasons.
Judge Breyer found that the risk of future damage was “weakened” because the main deadline for filing tax returns on April 18 has already passed, most taxpayers have filed their taxes, and Intuit said they have largely stopped advertising for this tax season.
The judge also said that Intuit had removed several of the more “likely fraudulent”; ads, some repeating the word “for free” a dozen times or more in 30 seconds before short disclaimers.
Finally, Judge Breyer said an FTC administrative court judge will review Intuit’s advertising practices at a hearing on September 14 and will likely decide before the company’s advertising campaign resumes.
The FTC can return to court if Intuit resumes its ads before the administrative court judge rules.
An FTC spokesman declined to comment. Attorneys for Intuit did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Intuit, based in Mountain View, California, ran some of the challenging ads during this year’s Super Bowl and NCAA college basketball tournament, the FTC said.
In its March 28 lawsuit, the FTC said that about two-thirds of taxpayers, including gambling workers and people with agricultural incomes, could not use TurboTax’s free product despite advertising slogans such as: “TurboTax Free is free.