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Helpful Tips to Steer Clear of False Advertising

False advertising is more than just something that can lose you potential customers – it’s something that can actually land you and your business in hot water legally. But it’s so tempting to just tweak that ad copy to make your product or service seem that much better – to really catch your prospects’ eye and draw them in. Well, as tempting as it is, it’s definitely not worth it and you should take the appropriate precautions to ensure that all of your advertising is always on the up and up. Here’s how.

Always Keep a Good Inventory – If there’s a particular item you’re advertising, do your best to have enough on hand to accommodate customers as they come in to claim the offer. Otherwise, it may be perceived as a clever yet sneaky ploy just to draw people into your store. What’s worse, if you try to up-sell a customer when that product runs out, you’re toeing the line of the law. Instead, consider offering a raincheck – it’s a much better gesture of customer service.

Don’t Pull a “Bait and Switch” – This type of scheme involves advertising a certain product or service for a very attractive price, but not selling that same product or service when someone comes in to claim the offer. Blatant upselling makes this practice unlawful and could get you in a lot of trouble. A good way to determine if a business is involved in this type of advertising is when their sales representatives are actively discouraged from selling the advertised item, or would be compensated significantly more if they sell something more expensive.

Make Sure the Small Print Matches the Big – Posting an offer in big, bold letters but offering something totally different in teensy weensy print at the bottom right hand corner is also a big no-no. Reserve the small print for things like legitimate disclaimers or further explanation of exclusions. Otherwise you may end up with more trouble than you bargained for. 

Be Cautious with “Green” Claims – Over the past few decades, more and more businesses began shifting toward better practices to help reduce their carbon footprint, but be careful when using the terms “green” or “eco-friendly” in your advertising. The FTC has set forth specific guidelines in order to prevent the false claims or exaggerations of environmentally friendly business practices. Unless you specifically meet these guidelines, avoid using these terms in your advertising.

Stay Away from “Going Out of Business” Type Sales – Unless, of course, you are going out of business. Most states enforce a strict timeframe on liquidation sales (for instance, in Washington you can’t host a going out of business sale unless you will be closing or relocating within 14 days of the posted advertisement). Be sure that you understand and comply with the laws in your state to avoid hefty penalties.

Advertising for your business plays a critical role in your success, but there’s a fine line that you have to be careful not to cross when it comes to what might be considered false advertising. Before you draft up that print ad or put together a script for your on-air promotion, make sure you keep the things listed above in mind and do your due diligence to ensure that your claims are clear and accurate. Not only is it just better business practice overall, but it will also keep you from running into any costly legal snags along the way.

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posted by Rebecca Daneault @ 8:22 AM