A secret Federal Trade Commission study contends the FTC could eliminate its rule requiring supermarkets and other stores to have on hand adequate stocks of advertised specials.

The rule spurred the use of "rain checks" by retailers and led to FTC lawsuits against A&P, Safeway, Zayre and several other big chains for deceptive advertising practices.

But the FTC report says unavailability of advertised items isn't considered a high-priority problem by consumers, and it suggests the agency could find better ways to spend its money than enforcing the rule.

Consumers quickly learn which stores are unreliable about stocking advertised specials and either shop elsewhere or ignore the misleading ads, the study reportedly suggests.

Shoppers are more concerned about not having prices marked on sale items and being overcharged at the checkout counter for things that are supposed to be marked down, the report contends.

Prepared by an outside consultant, the report is based on interviews with several hundred consumers. It is expected to be sent to the commissioners next month and will be made public then.

Organized consumers are suspicious of the change, and plenty of people within the FTC believe the rule has kept unscrupulous merchants from luring customers into their stores with ads for low-priced goods that always seem to be sold out. Violation of the rule carries a $10,000 fine.

A new federal study shows that at least one government automobile safety standard actaully has a proven track record: It appears to protect automobiles travelers from themselves.

The study released by the Transportation Department indicates that federal safety standards designed to protect automobile passengers involved in side-impact accidents have "substantially reduced fatalities and serious injuries to drivers and passengers."

The study added that the lower injury rate is owed greatly to added protection from injury in accidents involving sideways impacts with a tree or other fixed objects.

Unfortunately, improvements have to be made to protect auto occupants better during side-impact crashes involving another vehicles, the study pointed out.

In praising the benefits of safety standard 214 -- which was enacted into law on Jan. 1, 1973, to mandate stronger side doors and other modifications in safety features -- National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator Joan Calybrook also had kind words for General Motors Corp.

Claybrook praised GM for its work 10 years ago in developing side-door protection. She said research by GM Fisher Body Division engineers Carl Hedeen and David Campbell "led to the design of side-door beams which were incorporated in full-size 1969 GM models."