" Another member of these matchmaking sites argued that it is illogical for any of these companies to spend several hour of their employee's time to lure someone into paying $30 membership fee [Santo, 2005].
It is indeed a sorry state of affair because false advertising does more than just rob people of their money; it also gives unfair advantage over competitors and simply betrays the trust of millions of people who naively bought the product or service. But it seems that there is really no end to this problem. Everyday tens of hundreds of ads run on cable television and they make variety of claims such as "fastest 3G network," "Faster DSL service," "Lowest prices for cable channels" etc. But who can ever verify all these claims. How do we know that Comcast is actually offering speedier DSL than telephone companies, or if Vonage voice quality is as crystal clear they claim it to be, or that at&T is actually the fastest 3g network in the U.S. We can only find out by actually buying these products or services and by then, it may be too late to do anything if the claims are false. We are already robbed of our money and our trust.
What is the solution then? The solution is not corrective advertising but rather nipping the problem in the bud. This means that before the advertisement is ever aired on television or printed in the newspapers and magazines, it should be checked by FTC to see if the claims made by the company are true or simply outrageous. Such a campaign was actually started by FTC in 1970 when "it required advertisers in selected industries to submit to the FTC evidence that would substantiate their advertising claims." (Pratkanis, p.117) However this practice had to be abandoned in 1980s when a new president stopped big government regulations and called for a freer market. But this relaxation of regulation actually did more harm than good. It "reopened the door to blatant abuses." (p. 117) but since then false advertising has been one of the major problems faced by consumers today.
How can then I make a difference. This is one question that customers need to ask themselves. I must be able to do something about claims that sound dubious. Is there anything an individual can do to stop or at least question that veracity of the claims made by various advertisers? The answer is yes, we can actually do something. As a customer, I have the right to write to these companies and demand evidence to back their claims. I can also lodge complaints with these firms if a product or service falls far short of what had been advertised. This way I can gain some control over the situation because frankly, companies will continue to lie about their products and if each individual becomes aware of his or her rights, it is only then can we bring about some serious change.
A group of students actually undertook this project as "they culled magazines and television to identify ninety-nine advertising claims and then wrote to the manufacturers of the products asking for any information that would substantiate their claims. The responses they received would startle even the most cynical critic of advertising. Just under 50% of the companies responded to the request. Of those responding, only five companies sent information that adequately substantiated their claims. The great majority sent more advertising…. Although the students did not find answers to their ad-substantiation questions, their project is still of considerable value." (Pratkanis, p. 118)
Thus while we may not able to completely stop the blatant advertising abuses, we can at least make some difference by making companies know that we are aware of our rights and are not willing to buy their lies. This may help in raising the level of accountability that currently prevails in the advertising business. We must therefore take action, however small it may be because what separates frustration and empowerment is "action."
1. Pratkanis, a. (2001) Age of Propaganda: The Everyday Use and Abuse of Persuasion Aronson Holt Paperbacks; illustrated edition
2. Coleman, J.W. (2001) the Criminal Elite: Understanding White Collar Crime. Worth Publishers. Fifth Edition .
3. Singer, N. A Birth Control Pill That Promised Too Much, February 10, 2009, New York Times.
4. Advertising, Mortgage Lending Compliance with Federal and State Guidance, 2001, retrieved from Internet, http://www.allfundinfo.com/4-1.doc
5. David Utter, No Love for Match.com, Yahoo in Lawsuits, retrieved from Internet, http://www.webpronews.com/topnews/topnews/wpn-60-20051118NoLoveForMatchcomYahooInLawsuits.html
6. Santo, M, (Mis)Match.com and Yahoo! (Im)Personals Sued for Fraud, retrieved from Internet, http://www.realtechnews.com/posts/2185