Some business owners believe that marketing is no–holds–barred venture, or free of any restrictions or rules since it seems like just about anyone can take out an ad. However, that isn’t the case. In fact, some small business owners find themselves in trouble with the law for merely trying to market their business.
In fact, the Federal Trade Commission Act’s Truth in Lending rules apply to all advertisers, whether you are a novice marketer or an experienced one at an agency. And the rules apply to all ads, whether they appear in your local newspaper, on the Internet or over the radio.
Essentially, the rules hold that your advertisements must be: truthful and non-deceptive; backed up by evidence when appropriate; and fair. There are additional rules that apply to certain products like consumer credit, 900 numbers and products sold by mail order.
An ad may be considered deceptive it if contains a statement, or omits information, that is likely to mislead an average consumer, and that misleading or missing information is likely to materially affect the consumer’s decision to buy or use the product being advertised.
An ad could be considered unfair if it is likely to cause a considerable injury to the consumer which the consumer cannot reasonably avoid, and the potential injury is not outweighed by the potential benefits to the consumer.
As you can see, these rules aren’t exactly cut-and-dry, which is why the FTC considers may factors when determining if an ad is deceptive or unfair, which are discussed at length on the FTC’s website along with numerous other legal advertising issues.
Before running an ad that you think may be deceptive or unfair to consumers, make sure to talk with an experienced business attorney first.