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Ads have to be true in all forms, from TV to print

Have you ever seen a convincing commercial and then thought that it had to be too good to be true? Well, if you're right, the advertiser could be in a fair amount of trouble. Legally speaking, the Federal Trade Commission demands that all ads, no matter what products they're for or what industry they're used in, be accurate and true. The law goes on to say that ads can't be deliberately misleading, noting that backing up the ads with scientific evidence is a good idea when such a thing is possible.

This is part of the reason why you don't usually see ads make bold, direct claims. A diet program is going to tell you that you "could lose up to" a certain amount of weight, not that you will. A car commercial is going to tell you about the safety awards that the car has won, not that it's guaranteed to keep you safe in an accident.

The FTC covers all of their bases with these regulations, mandating that ads be truthful on the TV, on the Internet, on the radio or anywhere in print. Even temporary ads, like billboards or vehicle wraps, are held to this same standard.

While the FTC does look at all ads for all products, it pays very close attention to high-value items and health-related items. Things that get the most scrutiny include drugs, supplements, food, alcohol and tech products.

So, did that ad turn out to be too good to be true, and do you think you were deliberately misled to get you to spend your money? If so, you need to know your rights to compensation. In many cases, consumers will all join together in a class action lawsuit, rather than suing the company individually.

Source: FTC, "Truth In Advertising," accessed Dec. 12, 2016

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