North Carolina Department of Justice

North Carolina Department of Justice

North Carolina Department of Justice
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Making sense of advertising claims

10/4/2011

By Attorney General Roy Cooper
Advertising is part of our everyday lives. When you turn on the radio, open up the newspaper, surf the Internet or click on the television, you’re confronted by ads for a variety of products and services. While most ads are for legitimate products, some ads make far-fetched claims to try to get you to spend your hard-earned money. 
 
Some of the boldest advertising claims involve products that are supposed to help you shed pounds or get in shape.  You’ve likely seen ads for supplements that promise weight loss without dieting, or for exercise equipment that guarantees stronger muscles practically overnight.
 
Many of these ads tend to be long on promises and short on facts. They often use celebrity endorsements, super fit spokesmodels or amazing “before and after” examples to convince you to try their products. But there are no shortcuts to getting in shape, no matter what the ads say.
 
For example, you may have seen ads for special shoes that claim to tone and strengthen your legs. The Federal Trade Commission recently won $25 million from one of the makers of these shoes, Reebok, for ads that the FTC says deceived consumers and made unsupported claims.
 
To help make sense of advertising claims, keep the following tips in mind:  

Be skeptical. Glowing testimonials from people who say that the product changed their lives may be exaggerated or even untrue.   Paid endorsements by famous people don’t mean they actually use the product or service or that it’s worth your money. If an ad sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Study the fine print.    Before you order something you’ve seen advertised, read the fine print carefully.  Does it provide information that backs up the claims made in the ad, or does the information make you question the claims?
 
Check up on the company before you make a purchase by calling my office and the Better Business Bureau, and look for customer reviews and other information online.
 
Pay with a credit card to improve your chances of being able to get a refund if you aren’t satisfied with the product, or if the seller goes out of business.
 
You can report deceptive ads to my office by filing a consumer complaint at www.ncdoj.gov or calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM toll-free within North Carolina.