Ethics & Deceptive Advertising
Deceptive advertising continues to plague consumers, despite laws and enforcement by the Federal Trade Commission. Your business can quickly lose a good reputation by using deceptive advertising techniques. The Internet offers consumers many opportunities to spread negative comments about companies, and deceptive advertising practices can become notorious in minutes. The ethics of advertising should guide your choice of marketing messages.
One of the oldest forms of deceptive advertising continues to this day. Bait and switch means advertising a low-priced product, then switching it for a higher-priced product so that when customers arrive, they must pay more than they expected. This deception applies to some service companies as well. For example, if a mover quotes an hourly rate for moving, then tacks on surcharges to raise the price, this is a form of the bait-and-switch technique.
Ethical concerns arise when companies claim their products are good for the environment. False claims that a product is environmentally friendly are called green washing. Calling a product “green” can boost sales, but you must make sure your product actually offers some environmental advantage in order to make the claim. Similar concerns apply to “organic” products. If your products contain chemicals, the claim that they are organic can be considered deceptive.
Placing limitations and restrictions in the fine print at the bottom of a contract or agreement can be considered deceptive advertising. If you advertise a deal and then raise the price due to fine print, you will find yourself answering ethical questions from your customers.
Leaving out all of the facts in advertising raises serious ethical concerns, especially if those facts could change a consumer’s desire for your product. Ethical advertising practices require you to list all pertinent features for your products or services, so that consumers can make informed decisions. For example, if you sell a toy for a bargain price, and customers arrive only to discover that the toy is of a low quality that will not endure the rigors of child’s play, you may have a lot of explaining to do.
When you find that a competitor consistently outsells you by using unethical advertising, you can challenge that competitor in court. Some lawyers specialize in this area of law, and they will assist you in notifying the competitor and any relevant regulatory agencies.