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Recognizing Marketing Deception (Fraud?) Before Becoming a Victim

Recently, I heard a bombshell radio commercial on a metro-NYC news station that I listen to. The reason I love this station is simple: It’s smart, it’s interesting and it broadcasts John Sterling/Susan Waldman Yankee commentary during the games of the season.

However, this particular radio ad to me is so full of deceptive marketing language that I cringe every time it plays. Not only does it give my profession a bad name, but it may trick thousands of otherwise savvy consumers into signing up and becoming victims of what I consider almost a scam. But, for her cleverly manipulative, she may not even be found guilty of deception because every statement made is true. But it is certainly misleading to unsuspecting listeners to interpret these “true” statements as a good reason to respond to the ad and commit to the advertised service, only to later discover the folly of their impulsive decision.

Let me explain: The ad begins as an authoritative-sounding announcement that claims it can save American car owners thousands of dollars in auto repair bills. As long as you have less than 200,000 miles on your car (as most people do), you will never have to pay a car repair bill out of pocket! Advertisers will pay for you. If you’re sick and tired of spending your hard-earned money on auto repairs, call to see if you qualify! (This puts the onus on you to prove that you are one of those owners of cars with less than 200,000 miles who could take advantage of this advertising scam to trick you into buying.)

You can even hire your own mechanic or car repair service and have the advertiser bill you. This includes all the most advanced auto repair tech you’ll ever need! (Again, they say this to throw you off course, so consider what kind of repairs your car might need now or in the future and whether you’ll qualify.) For now, all that what they said was true in addition to “saving you. thousands of dollars”. That is, until you read between the lines.

No, you won’t be spending your hard-earned money on a car repair bill. Instead, you will be spending your hard earned money to pay them to represent you and pay your car repair bill for you. And while they claim you can save a lot of money, you may actually end up paying them more money as an intermediary. After all, they are in business to make money. They won’t do it for nothing. And how can they pay for these expensive radio ads on such a powerful station in New York? Only with answers from hundreds of loyal customers who sign up in groups.

So what do you get from it? If you sign a contract, and don’t pay them, there could be a lot of trouble, and who knows what else! They may seem like they’re providing you with great service and guarantee that they’ll pay for your car to be repaired on your old (with less than 200,000 miles) mileage, allowing you to keep driving and hopefully go on job (if you still have a job) while they wait for you to pay the bill (probably late) with interest!

I’m guessing on all the little details but you can see the dangers I’m pointing out. I remember hearing about a similar scam attempt by another automatic payment company that was distributed by mail within the last couple of years. Then I received a series of telemarketing calls about it. Now, I hear this ad for a different company on the radio. Could it be the same organization just operating under a different name? And ironically, as soon as I got to know him, I suddenly don’t hear him anymore, which may be part of their formula: run for a short time to collect new customers and then disappear into thin air. , like this. These are the kinds of questions I ask, because I’m naturally skeptical of marketing claims that raise these kinds of red flags.

The concept is very similar to the service that a credit card offers: you pay in plastic and then you pay interest to the credit card company for their generosity in allowing you to pay over time. But we all know the great danger that, as a nation and a world, unsolved economic problems lurk everywhere you look! If you’re one of the unlucky people who’s lost the privilege of using one or all of your many credit cards, this ad for a car repair payment service might sound pretty interesting, especially if old Bertha is making scary noises and endangering your commute. But I urge you to tread carefully and carry a large stick.

So, what exactly are the laws regarding deceptive advertising? According to the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Bureau of Consumer Protection, there are three characteristics that determine whether an ad is false or unfair:

1. If it violates public policy;

2. If it is immoral, unethical, oppressive or unscrupulous; or,

3. if it seriously harms consumers.

This last point is considered the most important in measuring whether an ad is false or unfair, with consumer damages usually based on the loss of money as a result of a purchase that would never have been made if the ad had not been misleading in the first place. False statements are defined by false face value; or that they are clearly false. In my opinion, the above radio ad may be making an obviously false claim by saying that it can pay you huge amounts of money if you use their service. However, with a qualified interpretation, those statements can be considered true if they indicate your savings from payments directly allocated to car repair dealers.

If you don’t pay your mechanic directly to repair your car, you basically save that money. However, you will need to use that “generated” money to pay the car repair payment company that will pay your mechanic for you, no matter how deceptively they advertise their service. Does this sound ethical to you? Also, I believe the ad says “can save you” as opposed to “will save you” which means there may be other conditions you need to meet to make sure their claim can be true. deliver the appointment.

Based on the complaints that the FTC receives, there are some persistent issues that come up, often regarding unclear costs and terms. Responsible radio advertisers avoid legal problems by simply adding a phrase such as “Restrictions may apply,” while some overzealous advertisers devote a good deal of radio advertising time to detailing a long exposure that quickly and the run is delivered in a precise manner. it is impossible to understand what is being said. Depending on the space available, the FTC advises advertisers to use visual media to disclose details “clearly and conspicuously.” If space is limited, the 3-word disclaimer mentioned earlier may be sufficient, but small type and intentionally vague terminology are frowned upon.

What the FTC allows or regulates seems to be a gray area with decisions related to whether advertising is national or local in scope; whether it represents an industry regulated by another branch of government (such as airlines, banks, insurance companies, joint ventures, and companies that sell securities and commodities); or whether it can be handled by some other local agency such as the Better Business Bureau. As mentioned earlier, the most important for the FTC seems to be issues related to consumer harm, whether “health, safety or wallet.”

Penalties for non-compliance can be severe, ranging from a simple “cease and desist” order to $16,000 per day for further violations if not properly complied with; for fines reaching into the millions of dollars when necessary, sometimes required to pay consumers who were affected by the offending advertisement; to run new ads and contact buyers to correct previous misleading information.

You have the right to file a complaint with the FTC as well as contact an attorney if you have been harmed in any way by an ad that has been misrepresented. If the offensive ad is far-reaching enough, your case may be considered eligible for class action marketing, which includes multiple plaintiffs besides you. However, be aware that no matter how valuable your attorneys’ representation may seem in such cases, it is often the attorneys who benefit the most in class action lawsuits.

What if you think an ad from a competitor is misleading? You have several options, some or all of which you can follow:

1. You may want to contact an attorney to investigate whether you should sue for unfair competition by making misleading claims in advertisements.

2. You may file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau Council’s National Advertising Division (NAD), which handles these disputes on both a national and local basis.

3. If the ad is local, you can contact your local Better Business Bureau to file a complaint.

4. You may contact the print or broadcast medium in which the ad is running to report your suspicion of the deceptive nature of the ad.

5. You can contact your state Attorney General’s Office or your city, county, or state Office of Consumer Affairs to report the problem.

6. Finally, you may contact the Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Response Center, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580; or call: toll-free 1-877-FTC-HELP.

As a piece of advice from a marketing expert, if you’re an advertiser who uses techniques of ambiguity, or worse, ambiguity, to hide the full truth of your message, remember this:

“Poor quality grapes linger long after the sweetness of low prices is forgotten.” – Benjamin Franklin

Translation: A dissatisfied customer will not only share their unpleasant experience with their friends and family, but will also spread the bad word about you on blogs, forums and chat rooms, giving the company a negative reputation. you will never be able to live in it. today’s Google-dominated universe. If your advertising mistake was unintentional, it will be much less expensive to try to regain the loyalty of a dissatisfied customer with a valid complaint than to try to weather the devastating winter of his dissatisfaction.

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