Advertising claims made about a product need to be backed up by the reality that customers will experience if they make a purchase.
Unfortunately, even in our age of extensive ad regulation and the expectation of honesty from brands, it’s still not uncommon to encounter misleading marketing which can leave consumers feeling cheated.
So what steps should you take if you buy a product on the basis of an advert, only to find that it has been misrepresented? Let’s look at a few options available to you.
Consider the nature of the false advertising
One thing to point out before going any further is that it doesn’t matter where the ad appears, whether that be in print, on the TV or online, as the same rules and regulations apply regardless.
This is good news, but it’s worth remembering that the authorities will not necessarily give the same amount of weight to misleading claims to every type of product.
The Federal Trade Commission explicitly states that it will apply closer scrutiny to claims made about products which are either related to consumer health or finance. So if the product in question falls outside of these categories, it may be trickier to get your concerns noticed.
Get in touch with a legal expert
Of course you don’t need to campaign for your consumer rights to be upheld alone, as there are plenty of professional attorneys out there who specialize in helping clients get compensation in cases such as this.
Taking a case against businesses which have made false claims can be challenging, but is far less so with the right people on your side from day one.
Understand the nature of objectivity
Another point to keep in mind is that claims which are objectively false are far easier to dismantle and fight back against than those that are subjective or impossible to prove definitively.
For example, a business is allowed to claim that it offers the best products in its niche, without necessarily being held accountable by customers if it turns out that a rival has a marginally better alternative.
Conversely, if a company states that their product has a net weight of 2lb, but it turns out to weigh just 1lb, then this is an objectively untrue assertion, and does give customers grounds for complaint.
Obviously there are exceptions and loopholes to take into account, so every case has to be considered individually, even if there may be instances of similar false claims being made in the past which could inform the outcome in the long run.
Pricing is a factor
Misleading ads don’t just have to lie about what a product can do; they are also breaking the law if their approach to pricing is not fair and transparent.
Pricing becomes a problem if you are trying to save money by choosing a product marketed as being ‘on sale’, when in reality it has not been marked down from a previously used price point.
It can also be a concern if a brand gives customers only part of the picture with the pricing advertised; for example, if the price is only for part of the product, and there are hidden fees to pay on top of this.
Regardless of which underhanded tactics you encounter, you have rights as a consumer and there are mechanisms in place to empower you, as well as professionals out there who will help you. So don’t suffer in silence; speak out and have your voice heard.