Advertisement monitoring

20/08/2013 08:05

Advertisements are important especially as these are sources of information on products and services that many consumers rely on prior to purchase. Most consumers normally believe what advertisements “promise” to deliver. Consumers are urged to make informed choices and advertisements are one source of information that should assist them to make these choices.

However, advertisements are also used by traders to entice or persuade consumers to their products or promotions. And sometimes in the hype to persuade consumers, some unscrupulous traders provide misleading or inaccurate information about the goods and services on offer.

The Council, in its efforts to protect consumers conducts regular advertisement monitoring to check advertisements that may be misleading. Apart from the Council’s ongoing surveillance, it relies heavily on active consumers’ input in providing tip-offs on cases where there is misleading advertisement or information by traders.

In the first 6 months of 2013, the Council has come across 23 advertisements which were misleading or lacking vital information. After the Council’s intervention, 18 traders/advertisers amended their advertisements accordingly.

Here are some examples of advertisements that have created confusions, lacked full information and were misleading.

Missing Information

During prime occasions, such as back to school, Easter and Mothers Day, a reputable company displayed for sale an unnamed computer tablet as “smart deals”. Consumers were unable to know what particular brand was on sale.

Similarly, consumers were informed by a phone company about a deal where they could take advantage of a talk for “10mins for 0.35cents” offer. However, the advertisement did not disclose which company was running this promotion, leaving consumers confused.

Misleading Price Tags

The Council regularly comes across instances whereby supermarkets display “sale” prices on certain products, which in fact are normal prices. In other instances “sale” items show normal prices on cash registers at the checkout counter.

For instance, a particular brand of soap 90g was 85c but reduced to 75c on sale. However the sale price was not picked up by the cash register.

Furthermore, another supermarket displayed $1.50 for the price of a tinned tuna; however the cash register recorded $1.80 for the same.

Fine prints

An airline service provider in its newspaper advertisement had the terms and conditions in very fine print that made it very difficult for an average consumer to clearly read and understand the details. 

Terms and conditions not clear

Council has also come across cases where newspaper advertisements by some supermarkets and traders failed to disclose and advertise or specify the terms and conditions.

One supermarket advertised in a newspaper of their “February Fiesta” but failed to specify the full terms and conditions of the competition such as text charges.

Another advertised promotion run during Easter by a supermarket allowed consumers purchasing over $40 goods to go into a draw for a chance to win Easter Chicken or a consolation prize. This gave the impression that the winners will either get a chicken or a consolation prize. This confused consumers as some entries had “better luck next time” labelled on it.

These advertisements were amended accordingly after the Council’s intervention.

Traders and advertisers are advised to adhere to the Commerce Commission Decree 2010 that require disclosure of correct information. The Commerce Commission Decree 2010 prevents a person in trade or commerce from misleading or making false representation of goods and services by promoting the same through published advertisements.

In relation to misleading price tags, Section 77(1)g of the Decree states that “A person shall not...make a representation concerning that a price advantage of goods or services exist if it does not”.

Advertisements should not inconvenience or discourage consumers, especially when traders are able to use advertisements as a marketing tactic to influence a consumer’s purchasing power and decision.

The Council continues to monitor advertisements to ensure that consumers are not wrongfully lured into purchasing a product or service without receiving all necessary information.