Consumer Information

Consumer rights with regard to information related to the marketer’s provision of adequate information which neither deceives nor misleads.

Deception of consumers:

Although numerous government agencies are involved in the area of preventing consumer deception, the Federal Trade Commission is probably the most active unit in this field. Charged with preventing unfair or deceptive acts or practices in commerce, the FTC has been most concerned with eliminating deceptive advertising. The FYC need not prove that deception actually occurred in an advertisement but merely that the ad had the capacity to deceive. It should also be noted that the advertiser cannot take liability simply because he did not know that the ad’s claim was false. Comparative advertising where brands mention their rivals in advertising claims, has become increasingly risky. Previously companies were only liable for false advertising when they misrepresented their own products no matter what they said about a competitor’s brand. Now, misleading statements about a rival’s product are grounds for a suit

Advertisements have long been designed on the basis of the accepted approach of puffery that is the use of exaggerated praise for advertised items. The most difficult question to resolve, however, is the point at which puffery becomes deception. The FTC’s position has been that puffery is recognizable by reasonable consumers and cannot lead to deception since it is not believed. However studies consistently produce a different conclusion, showing that puffed claims are frequently believed by consumers to be true. The FTC has generally taken the position that deception in advertising occurs when a false claim is presented or a false impression is created over a true claim or that insufficient information is provided. A useful definition by which deception in advertising may be evaluated is as follows:

If an advertisement (or advertising campaign) leaves the consumer with an impression (s) and / or belief (s) different from what would normally be expected if the consumer had reasonable knowledge and that impression(s) and /or beliefs(s) is actually untrue or potentially misleading, then deception is said to exist

On the basis of such a definition three types of deceptive advertising may exist. First, the outright lie occurs where a claim is made that is completely false, even from an objective viewpoint. That is, it is impossible for consumers to achieve the claimed benefits claim that a new automobile carburetor device would increase gas mileage to over 100 miles per gallon could be an example. Second, the advertiser may be guilty of chain fact discrepancy in which a claimed benefit of the advertised product must be qualified in some way for it to be correctly understood and evaluated (but this is not done in the ad). For example an advertisement may claim that 60 percent of doctors recommend X. If the consumers knew what types of doctors how many were surveyed and what questions were asked, this claim could be more accurately evaluated third, the advertiser may deceive on the basis of claim fact interaction. That is the advertisement claim (while being neither explicitly and implicitly deceptive) interacts with the accumulated belief and attitudes held by consumers in such a way that they are misled or deceived by it. For example actor Robert Young who played a medical doctor on the long running television series Marcus Welby may have been perceived by many consumers as acting in the role of a physician or recommending the product on the basis of medical knowledge when he appeared as a spokesperson in advertisements for Sanka brand decaffeinated coffee. Even though no mention is made of the fact, for some consumers such a recommendation may interact deceptively with their belief.
Source: Consumer Behavior