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Advertising Online - Know the Ground Rules

Content provided by the Better Business Bureau

Online advertising presents opportunities no business can afford to miss. Even the smallest hometown retailer can use the Internet to attract potential customers, whether they live across town, in another state or outside the country. If a business wants to keep that customer's loyalty, however, it is going to need to inspire their confidence.

The Better Business Bureau believes that truthful and accurate advertising is the key to building consumer trust in both the traditional and online marketplace. The following tips can assist businesses looking to establish credibility on the Internet.

  • Help the consumer to make an informed buying decision. Your advertisement should provide consumers with access to relevant information about your company and its goods or services available for purchase online.
  • Tell the truth. The Federal Trade Commission prohibits unfair or deceptive advertising on the Internet and elsewhere. A claim can be misleading if relevant information is left out or if the claim implies something that is not true.
  • Disclaimers must be clear and conspicuous. That means a consumer must be able to notice, read or hear, and understand the information.
  • Live up to your promises. If you advertise "100% satisfaction or your money back," then fulfill that commitment. If you advertise a speedy shipping delivery date, you must meet that obligation.
  • Be able to substantiate your advertising claims, especially when they concern health, safety or performance. Your advertising claims must be supported by facts. Do not omit pertinent information or use deception to lure consumers into believing your product delivers more than it does.
  • Use accurate comparisons. When comparing your product to a competitor's, compare similar attributes that contribute strongly to the product's worth or usefulness. Avoid "apples and oranges" comparisons.
  • Advertising to children warrants special care. The BBB's Children's Advertising Review Unit offers guidelines for online advertisers that target children.
  • Spammers do not inspire consumer trust. Spam e-mail is typically considered a nuisance by consumers and a majority of states have laws regulating unsolicited commercial or bulk e-mail advertising.
  • Online privacy protection is an important consideration. Post and adhere to a privacy policy based on fair information principles and provide adequate security to protect customers' personally identifiable information.

For additional information on truthful advertising in the online marketplace, check the BBB Code of Online Business Practices at www.bbb.org.

Copyright © 2016, Better Business Bureau. All Rights Reserved.
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