Deceptive advertising, also known as false advertising, refers to a manufacturer’s use of confusing, misleading, or blatantly untrue statements when promoting a product. Advertising law will protect consumers from deceptive advertising through the enforcement of specific legislation. Advertising law and consumer law have basically the same function: to promote truth in labeling.
Truth in labeling means that all pertinent information that a consumer should reasonably be aware of should be printed on the label of the product. This will ensure that consumers are protected, and know exactly what they are buying. This limits the level of manipulation by manufacturers and advertisers.
There are several different methods for attempting to deceive consumers that are not permitted under advertising law. One way is through hidden fees or the use of surcharges. This means that a company will charge extra fees beyond the advertised price for a certain product or service. This is very common in mobile phone contracts and air travel.
Oftentimes, the company will try to protect themselves by disclosing the extra fees in the “fine print” of the contract. Most consumers will be unaware of these charges and overlook them when signing contracts. Advertising law mandates that the language of a contract must not be so confusing that it prevents a consumer from being aware of them. Oftentimes, especially in mobile phone contracts, activation fees will be included. Advertising law will permit these charges as long as they are disclosed to the consumer.
Another method of deceptive advertising occurs when “going out of business sales” actually charge customers more for products that had already been marked down. According to consumer law, this is an unfair practice because it takes advantage of and misleads the customer. By advertising that the company is going out of business and “everything must go” this tells the customer that the prices will be marked down. However, this is not always the case. A customer may actually pay a higher price than normal during a going out of business sale.
Advertising law also recognizes the manipulation of standards as a deception under consumer law. This means that a company will begin to change something, such as a unit of measurement, to mean something different from how it is normally understood. This will allow companies to charge more for their services, but is a violation of rights according to consumer law.
Undefined terms is also considered a violation under consumer law. This will occur when manufacturers are very vague in their terms. They may be using terms that are not legally accepted and basically have little meaning.