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What is false advertising? 

False advertising is when a business makes a false, deceptive or misleading claim about its products or services in its advertising. Typically, the aim of such a claim is to mislead or deceive consumers.

False advertising is not only considered unethical, it is also illegal and can result in fines, prosecution and even imprisonment.

Who regulates advertisements? 

In the UK, the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) is responsible for regulating advertising across various media channels. Together with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), the ASA is responsible for enforcing advertising standards and consumer protection laws in the UK.

The ASA and CMA monitor and take action against advertisements that contain false or misleading information, including exaggerated claims, false pricing or deceptive product descriptions. The goal is to ensure that consumers (ie private individuals) are provided with accurate and truthful information to make informed purchasing decisions.

How can a business avoid making false advertising claims?

When advertising their goods or products, businesses should consider doing the following to ensure their claims don’t fall into the false advertising category:

Substantiating all of their claims

One of the most important steps that businesses can take to avoid false advertising claims is ensuring that all claims made in their advertising are truthful and can be substantiated. This means that the business can provide evidence to support the claims, such as scientific studies or other data. If the advertiser cannot provide evidence to support a claim, they should not make that claim in their advertising.

Using clear and unambiguous language

Advertisers should use clear language in advertising to avoid causing any confusion or misunderstandings. This means avoiding using any vague or overly broad language that could be interpreted in different ways. Businesses should also avoid using technical jargon that is difficult for the average customer to understand. For example, if your business offers IT support for law firms, it’s important you use language that your target customers will recognise.

Avoiding comparative claims unless they are accurate

Comparative claims such as ‘our product is better than (or cheaper than) our competitors’ can be very effective in advertising. However, they must be accurate and truthful. Businesses should avoid making exaggerated and unsupported comparative claims that cannot be substantiated. They must be based on factual and verifiable data.

Disclosing material information

Advertisers should disclose any material information that could affect a consumer’s decision to purchase a product or service. This includes any information necessary for the consumer to make an informed decision. Advertisers should be transparent about any limitations or restrictions applicable to their products, as well as any potential risks or side effects. 

Being aware of endorsement and testimonial guidelines

If a business uses endorsements or testimonials in its advertising, it must comply with ASA guidelines. This means ensuring that any endorsements and testimonials are truthful and not misleading, and disclosing any material connections between the endorser and the business.

Final thoughts

False advertising can lead to serious legal consequences for businesses, so it’s important to take steps to avoid making misleading claims. Advertisers should substantiate their claims, use clear and unambiguous language, avoid inaccurate comparative claims, and disclose any material information. By following these guidelines, businesses can create effective and legal advertising campaigns that reach their target audiences.

 

For more general information on advertising and marketing your business’ goods or services, read Advertising regulations, Marketing and the law, Considerations for email marketing, and Influencer marketing. If you have any questions about how to advertise compliantly, do not hesitate to Ask a lawyer.


Rocket Lawyer Marketing Team
Rocket Lawyer Marketing Team
Rocket Lawyer UK

Rocket Lawyer UK's Marketing Team works to make the law simple and accessible with our legal insights.

Please contact marketing@rocketlawyer.co.uk if you would like to contribute your own legal or business insight.

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