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Deceptive advertising

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Deceptive advertising

Deceptive Advertising

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 hidden costs or anything else that may be included somewhere else in the ad. The uses of asterisks are a common way that advertisers let the consumer know that there is addition information, usually in small type. However, the small type is rarely ever read and practically nonexistent to the average reader.

In conjunction with the placement of the 'negative' aspects of the ad are the sizes of the type used to display those messages. Like stated before the size of the type pushes average readers away and the messages are rarely read. Consumers tend to focus on the bolded headlines and the visuals, thus making them oblivious to the important facts of the product. For example, when advertisers for alcohol place a print ad the 'mandatory statements' are very small; some needed a magnifying glass to read. (Simon 261)

In the case of Grey Advertising, Inc. v. the Federal Trade Commission, Grey Advertising used deceptive advertising in commercials for Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America, Inc. Grey evidently 'created and disseminated automobile lease advertisements that violated the FTC Act, the Consumer Leasing Act, and Regulation M,' according to case documents. A consumer lease is 'a contract in the form of a lease or bailment for the use of personal property by a natural person for a period of time exceeding four months, and for a total contractual obligation not exceeding $25,000, primarily for personal, family, or household purposes'' (Internet) The problem started when the ad stated an amount 'down' at the initiation of the lease agreement was not the total amount the consumers were to pay. Consumers have to pay other costs in addition to the 'down' cost which include things like security deposits, first month's payment and/or an acquisition fee to lease those cars. In addition, the ad failed to show the terms of the lease in a clear manner that the consumer could reasonably understand.

Grey Advertising had prepared and disseminated three lease advertisements for Mitsubishi in which two were television ads and the third being a print ad. The first television ad is as follows:

(Audio) 'Lease for zero down and just two forty-nine a month for thirty-six months.'


$0 DOWN $249 A MONTH, 36 MONTHS'

At the bottom of the screen read, in dark print on a similarly dark background:

'First payment, plus a $0 down payment and a refundable security deposit of $250 (in NY, final monthly payment of $249 in lieu of security deposit) due upon delivery. 36 monthly payments based on MSRP of $18,043'with a dealer capitalized cost reduction of $922, excluding tax, title, license, registration, regionally required equipment, dealer options, and charges for a 36-closed month closed-end lease'Total payments: $8964. Lessee liable for maintenance, non-warrantable repairs, excess wear and tear, and up to 15[cents]/mile over 36,000 miles and $350 disposition fee and applicable taxes at lease end. Option to purchase at lease end for residual value of $10,068, plus applicable fees and taxes and purchase option fee of $150''

This fine print was displayed on the bottom of three separate screens, each containing a block of at least seven lines, and the block was only showed for about three seconds each.

The second television ad is as follows:

(Audio) 'Lease for just two forty-nine a month for forty-eight months with a thousand dollars down.'

(Video) '$1000 DOWN


Again at the bottom of the screen in fine white print on a dark-colored moving background reads:

'First payment, plus a $1000 down payment and a refundable security deposit of $250 (in NY, final monthly payment of $249 in lieu of security deposit) due upon delivery. 48 month payments based on MSRP of $18,747'with a dealer capitalized cost reduction of $1,289, excluding tax, title, license, registration, regionally required equipment, ...

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Keywords: deceptive advertising examples, deceptive advertising definition, deceptive advertising laws, deceptive advertising ftc, deceptive advertising and ethics, deceptive advertising techniques, deceptive advertising is also known as puffing, deceptive advertising cases

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