May 16, 2021   6:04pm
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Truth in Advertising

Let’s bring back “Truth in Advertising”

Here’s a question for you.  Shouldn’t the Federal Trade Commission’s “Truth in Advertising” rules apply to political campaigns?

Back in business school, one of the first dictums we learned was that you better be darn sure your ad was honest.  Tempted to do otherwise, you’d be at risk for severe penalties. You can imagine what would happen if that rule didn’t apply.  Companies would spend enormous amounts to exaggerate claims for their own products while damning those of their competitors.  Uhhh … something like what is going on right now during this Presidential campaign.

Curious to see just what “Truth in Advertising” rules are today, I checked them out on the FTC website.  To save you time, here are some salient points:

Under the Federal Trade Commission Act …

  • Advertising must be truthful and non-deceptive;
  • Advertisers must have evidence to back up their claims; and
  • Advertisements cannot be unfair…

An Ad is deceptive if it contains a statement – or omits information – that:

  • Is likely to mislead consumers acting reasonably under the circumstances; and
  • Is “material” – that is, important to a consumer’s decision to buy or use the product…

The FTC determines if an ad is deceptive by looking at:

  • the ad from the point of view of the “reasonable consumer” …
  • both “express” and “implied” claims…
  • what the ad does not say …
  • whether the claim would be “material”…
  • whether the advertiser has sufficient evidence to support the claims…

Advertising agencies are subject to the FTC Act and may be held legally responsible for misleading claims in ads … Ad claims on the Internet … and over the telephone … must be truthful and substantiated.

The penalties that can be imposed include:

  • Cease and desist orders…
  • Civil penalties, consumer redress and other monetary remedies…
  • Corrective advertising, disclosures and other informational remedies…

The FTC decides what cases to bring based upon:

  • FTC jurisdiction…
  • The geographic scope of the advertising campaign. The FTC concentrates on national advertising…
  • The extent to which an ad represents a pattern of deception, rather than an individual dispute…
  • The amount of injury – to consumers’ health, safety, or wallets – that could result if consumers rely on the deceptive claim …

…The FTC is authorized to act when it appears that a company’s advertising is deceptive and when FTC action is in the public interest…

So … here’s the rub … political advertising as far as I can tell, doesn’t fall under anyone’s jurisdiction …

Maybe we can start by filing a a complaint about the political ads to your congressman!  For your senator’s webmail address click here … or for finding out who your senator and or congress person is and how to contact them click here.

As long as the U.S. Congress is going to be forming new committees, maybe one of those should be bi-partisan and in charge of oversight on honesty, if not in finance, at least in POLITICAL advertising.

I feel better now.  Thank you,

Harriett

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senate webmail url: http://usgovinfo.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?site=http://www.lib.umich.edu/govdocs/congress/conemail.txt

senator and congress person url: http://www.visi.com/juan/congress/

 

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