As a consumer in a world of constant advertising messages being flashed before my eyes, I am always wary of the truth of those messages that I see. It is terrible when consumers see an advertisement, whether it is in a magazine, television or any other medium, and they decide to make a purchase only to find out they are not getting what they originally planned or have to pay more than they had expected. Deceptive advertisements have been a problem since the early days of media and consumers have needed to keep an eye out for them. Yet, with so many advertisements that consumers are exposed to each day, worrying about the truth of every line and every sentence of an ad is quite inconvenient. Advertisers must follow strict guidelines to stay clear of lawsuits resulting from deceptive advertisements. I will be focusing on automobile advertisements and how consumers have been deceived through their ads.
Deceptive advertising can be described as “advertising which is misleading in a material aspect.” (Simon 256) This definition would include all the false and misleading advertisements that would appear in print, television, radio, outdoor and direct mailings. As well as more non-traditional forms of advertising like transportation ads along with the use of pictures, trade names, display materials, labels, sales talks, sales letters, price lists and catalogs. As any consumer can see, advertisers have many means by which they can “trick” or deceive us consumers into buying products not planned for.
Unlike most tort cases that are decided in the courtroom by a judge, most deceptive advertisement claims are turned over to governmental agencies like the Federal Trade Commission. Agencies like the FTC are better suited to handle these cases because they have the necessary expertise to make proper decisions. So before an ad can be deemed deceptive, a complaint must be made to the FTC. From then an investigation can be made into the falseness and deceptiveness of the advertisement. The FTC tests to see the reaction from other consumers as to how misleading the ad is. These tests are done in the atmosphere and under the same circumstances as the actual consumer would be in. The test is based on the casual reaction of the consumer and the impression that they received from the ad. This public view of the “ordinary and trusted mind” has been described as “uneducated…prejudiced…impressionable, gullible…and stupid.” (Simon 257) These average people are the ones that will view or listen to the alleged deceptive advertisements and explain what they think they are going to get out of it. There are stricter controls when the ads are aimed at children, foreigners or the “sick but hopeful.” These tests to determine falsity are very important in a deception case.
Another test that the FTC performs is to determine if nondisclosure was used as deception. This means that the advertiser would tell the truth about some of the information but leave out undesirable information to the consumer. Less appealing facts about the product would remain out of the ad, as in many cases dealing with hidden costs. As a consumer this is possibly the most harmful when dealing with deception because the ad doesn’t reveal all of the information needed to make a clear decision necessary to make a good purchase.
Arrangement and layout of the advertisement is another aspect to be considered when telling if an ad is deceptive. If the advertisement has a lot of visual impact the “underlying” message, or the important details of the product, may be looked over. Sometimes an ad will focus heavily on the positive selling arguments and overlooks or downplays the negative/detail-oriented messages. When advertisers do this the consumer naturally focuses their attention on the positives and may make a decision not realizing the...
FTC DRIVES TO END THE BLUR IN CAR LEASING ADS, (August 28, 1998)
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