What Is Deceptive Advertising?
For many companies, what is deceptive advertising, and what can be done to prevent it, are two very important questions. Deceptive advertising, in the legal sense of the term, refers to an advertisement that purposefully misleading or is misleading in some way. In the layman’s terms, deceptive advertising can be anything that makes a claim that it is related to or offered for sale to consumers at an “offline” price or in a manner that consumers cannot easily verify. The most common deceptive advertisements are those that state something like “This deal only applies to residents of the US.” While this is true, what is deceptive in this case isn’t the truth of the advertisement itself, but rather the fact that the advertiser has taken the time to inform the consumer that the deal is only applicable to residents of the US.
Another deceptive advertisement involves what is known as “marketing exaggeration.” This term refers to those practices that go beyond what is legally allowed to advertise. These practices may include exaggerating the benefits of a product or service. In order to qualify as marketing exaggeration, the representation must be false and misleading. Examples of marketing exaggeration can include comparing a particular product or service to those used by millions of others, claiming that a product is or can be used by anyone, and using testimonials from “real” users as a basis for recommending a product.
Because many people do not have the time or knowledge to check every facet of every advertisement, what is deceptive advertising in this case is often just the brevity of the advertisement. An example would be a television commercial that only shows a brief snippet of the benefits of a product. While this does not necessarily deception, what is deceptive advertising in this instance is the fact that it focuses on a narrow benefit and fails to show consumers other uses, drawbacks, or benefits of a product or service. For this reason, it is important that consumers who are bombarded with dozens of advertising messages every day know what is deceptive advertising and when they should seek legal advice.
Comparison inconsistencies are another form of what is deceptive advertising. For example, if a television commercial touts the benefits of a new vacuum cleaner and then shows consumers what is sometimes described as a side-by-side comparison of the vacuum with an upright vacuum, this is false advertising. In this case, what is deceptive advertising is the partial comparison and the inferences drawn from that comparison.
One other example of what is deceptive advertising practices relates to the use of testimonials. In a case such as this, a company could place a television commercial about their products and then include a short listing of all of the positive customer comments and a few lines highlighting how their company stands behind its products. What is deceptive advertising in this instance would be the omission of what is called a “dumb question” that would give the customer an opportunity to ask questions. Under federal law a company is not allowed to make any false claims unless it is supported by significant proof.
Another area of what is deceptive advertising practices is when a company provides consumers with the opportunity to sign up for a free trial of one of its products or services. In order for consumers to have a valid reason to do so, the item or service must have value. However, what is deceptive advertising in this instance is when the consumer is presented with a sign that states that the consumer must accept a free trial in order to obtain a full account or to receive information about the product or service. Once again, the company is not permitted to make any false claims in order to gain a profit.
A final area in what is deceptive advertising involves the use of testimonials. Under federal law, companies are not allowed to include any false claims in any advertisement, including testimonials. Any testimonial is considered a promise of what will be achieved through a purchase of a product or service. If a company chooses to use testimonials it is imperative that the source of the testimonials is legitimate.
As you can see, what is deceptive advertising can be a tricky issue. While some types of advertising are allowed, others, such as those that involve testimonials and free trials, should never be accepted at face value. Every consumer has the right to receive what they are paying for. It is imperative that consumers know what is deceptive advertising and what is simply not considered deceptive advertising. Being informed about what is deceptive advertising can help you to protect yourself from what is not appropriate in your shopping experience.