This post has been on my mind the last few days, for several reasons. I have been a member of Startup Nation for the last few years, but it seems in the last year that more and more people are trying to use some sort of gimmick to sell there product or service. I know that gimmicks have been around for centuries but it appears to me that it is getting worse.
With the economy being weak, it makes that many more people eager to jump onto something that promises it will cure everything under the sun. As P.T. Barnum said, ” There’s a sucker born every minute.”
The definition of “Truth in Advertising” is stated below, from the Federal Trade Commission Act:
* Advertising must be truthful and non-deceptive;
* Advertisers must have evidence to back up their claims; and
* Advertisements cannot be unfair.
Additional laws apply to ads for specialized products like consumer leases, credit, 900 telephone numbers, and products sold through mail-order or telephone sales. And every state has additional consumer protection laws that govern ads running in that state.
According to the FTC’s Deception Policy Statement, an ad is deceptive if it contains a statement – or omits information – that:
* Is likely to mislead consumers acting reasonably under the circumstances; and
* Is “material” – that is, important to a consumer’s decision to buy or use the product.
The FTC looks at both “express” and “implied” claims. An express claim is literally stated in the ad. For example, “ABC Mouthwash prevents colds.” That is an express claim that the product will prevent colds.
An implied claim is one made indirectly or by inference. For example, “ABC Mouthwash kills the germs that cause colds.” This contains an implied claim that the product will prevent colds, even though it doesn’t come right out and say so. Although the ad doesn’t literally say that the product prevents colds, a consumer would be “acting reasonbly” to conclude from the statement, “kills the germs that cause colds,” that the product will prevent colds.
Under the law, advertisers must have proof to back up express and implied claims that consumers take from an ad. This has gone a long way toward preventing a lot of people from misleading the general public. Below is a picture that is a prime example of a magnetic bracelet that claims to cure everything.
On our Web site, we show our signal flags just the way they actually are. The text states clearly what we are selling, what the price is, and information about our product. On Startup Nation, I have seen so many sites that try to hide what they are selling, or are vague about what the price is.
There also are a lot of people who like to play “hard to get.” They post advice in the forums, telling people that if a customer calls, to make sure they appear busy, and to advise customers that you will get back to them in a week or so. Frankly I am tired of the game-playing! How many times have you called someone, then had to wait on the phone forever to talk to a live person?
Maybe I am old-fashioned, but I would love to get back to basic values. Whether it is online or in a retail store, it would be great to have someone who actually knows about the products they sell. Maybe that’s why there are all these games. Nobody makes their own products, so they don’t know anything about the products. They have to lie because they don’t have any real answers.
The bottom line is that if you have a product or service to sell, be open about what it is and it’s various uses. Don’t revert to using gimmicks. If you have a quality product, then stand behind it and be proud! You don’t need gimmicks and false advertising.