Consumers have the right to expect that they will not be misled or deceived by a trader. Misleading consumers is not just unethical; it can see traders facing legal action.
But sometimes traders may not even realise that their actions are unlawful.
Think carefully: at any point and in any way you leading customers to believe something that isn’t true?
In order to assess whether you’re doing the right thing, here’s a handy checklist of things to consider in order to evaluate whether your actions are within the law:
Are customers being misled by your advertising? Are you including all of the important information in your advertising that is needed for customers to make informed decisions? Are you omitting important details about goods and services that might confuse or mislead customers?
Even if you don’t intend to deceive your customers, you can still face serious consequences for doing the wrong thing.
Do your products or advertising show multiple prices? For example, the price for an item on your advertising (such as in a catalogue, on your website or on a pamphlet) and the price in-store may be different. This is considered misleading, and you must sell the good at the lowest advertised price or stop selling it.
Terms and conditions, disclaimers and fine print
Are you burying disclaimers, clarifications and disclosures in the fine print in order to get away with dodgy practices? Even if you put this information in the fine print, if the overall message of any advertising is misleading, you are still in the wrong.
Therefore, it is best practice to display such disclaimers, terms and conditions and limits on special offers clearly and prominently in any advertising.
Promises, predictions and opinions
Be careful about making statements that could be read as promises, predictions and opinions, especially if you know that they are false. This is considered deceptive conduct.
For example, if you give customers the impression that you are making products with locally-sourced materials but actually using imported ones, this could be considered misleading.
However, if you are making wild, fanciful or vague claims that customers could not reasonably consider to be serious, you may be in the clear. For example, saying that your company’s candles are the best-smelling in the world is puffery, not deception.
At the same time, this is not a free pass to engage in genuinely deceptive behaviour. Use caution! There is a real grey area between deception and puffery, so be sure to get legal advice prior to putting out any advertising.
Are you leaving out important information in your messaging? Are customers being denied important details necessary for them to make an informed choice about your goods and services?
Staying silent about these details can be ruled as deception.
For example, if your company offers a gym membership that includes unlimited access to classes, but fails to mention that this excludes weekend classes, this is deceptive.