Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Misleading with Up To claims.

"Up to" claims are convenient for companies to show savings without needing to detail every item on sale in their advertisements. It's also a used by dishonest companies to mislead consumers.  For instance, I've seen a book store with a table near the entrance with about fifty sale items on it.  A large sign at the top said "Sale. Up To 75% off."  Upon checking the prices on every item, I found that only one item was 75% off and nearly all the rest were about 10% off. The wording on the sign was technically true, but misleading. The sign didn't accurately represent what reasonable consumers would expect to find.  I asked the store manager to remove the sign and it was taken down.

Businesses could do this with whole stores, and have.  You may have seen ads say things like "Everything on Sale! Up to 50% off!"  A trip to the store is a sobering reality when you find only a few unpopular trinkets on sale for 50% off and everything else at nearly full price.  The store owner may think he's terribly clever for discovering this linguistic loophole. However he's in for sobering reality when he finds out that even though everything in the advertisement is technically true, it's still deceptive and can he can be indicted for false advertising.

The Federal Trade Commission states that "up to" claims should not rely on "outliers" and the Missouri Advertising Rules state that advertisers must clearly indicate which products are on sale. Both agencies agree that even if a statement is literally true, it may nonetheless be deceptive its overall effect is misleading.

The BBB has kept tabs on "Up To" claims since the early 1920s. In our Nov 5, 1923 newsletter, the Kansas City Better Business Bureau  released a statement in accordance with the Associated Retail Advertisers policy on "up to" claims, introducing a policy which we still hold today.
The Bureau recommends that this phrase not be used unless the minimum former price or value included in the lot on sale be given as well as the highest price. Where articles of several different former prices are included in a sale, at least 10% of the total quantity on sale should be off the highest former price mentioned in the advertisement.
If you are a business advertising an upcoming sale, keep these guidelines in mind. If you are a consumer who sees the phrase "up to" claims and no other details, be wary about soliciting that company's business.

1 comment:

  1. Nothing is worse than "up to" sales (meaning 0% up to x% savings), except maybe the sales that are "starting at"... meaning that there can be nothing cheaper than "x price" but as expensive as possible.