Misleading advertising, do you know the keys to detect it?

We could define the misleading advertising as one that does not tell the whole truth or that gives rise to errors or misunderstandings. As the Organization of Consumers and Users (OCU @consumers) is considered illicit and unfair, because in most cases it distorts the reality and the behavior of consumers when making their purchase decisions.

In Spain the General Law of Advertising and Unfair Competition (34/1988 of November 11) regulates the basic aspects of the promotion of products, goods or services, so that it is carried out respecting the rights of all, both those related to dignity and respect for the person, as well as those related to the own consumption.

Most of the companies are interested in that the diffusion of their products is carried out with total honesty. In fact, there are organisms like Self-control. who bet on the sector self-regulation as a formula to work towards responsible, legal and truthful advertising.

misleading advertising

Where can the deception lie?

We all know that the objective of an advertising campaign is to publicize a product or service highlighting its qualities, its advantages and those positive aspects for which we should buy it. There is nothing wrong with that, as long as the law is followed and that do not mislead or confuse the prospective buyer. Sometimes, there is a “fine line” between what is legal and what is not, a line that can make you believe that you are acquiring something that, in reality, is not exactly how it has been “painted” … there it is the root of a problem that, if it is important when buying a washing machine, a house or a plane ticket, it is more so when what is advertised is a food or a certain medical device that will affect your own health.

Examples of possible misleading advertising are many; some that, in certain cases, could be considered as such, for example:

  • Of that wonderful product that you were willing to buy “out of stock” or “not in stock”(But curiously there is a very similar one although with a slightly higher price).
  • Prizes and raffles in which you supposedly participate with your purchase or reservation and that do not really exist.
  • Products that are similar in shape, color or in name to similar ones and may lead you to end up being thrown into the basket by mistake.
  • Offers with extra, “free” or “gift” goods or services that you end up paying for.
  • Products with extraordinary properties (lose weight, increase muscles, eliminate wrinkles …) that have no scientific basis for their claims.

The Community of Madrid (@CommunityMadrid) points out, through its Consumer Portal, the importance of advertising as clear as it is truthful and reminds that the ads are binding, that is, what is promised in a spot advertising, in an advertisement in the press or in a descriptive brochure obliges the advertiser to comply with it. In fact, it is important to keep an information brochure because, in principle, it has contractual value and its non-compliance could be reportable.

misleading advertising

Some current advertising techniques that you should know

The guide published by the Ministry of Economy and Consumption of the Madrid Community indicates that in our current society a person receives some 3,000 advertising impacts every day. Before them apply the critical sense and know some of the techniques that advertising develops to achieve its objective, it helps when acquiring only what we really need or is good for us. Some of those techniques that, in principle, do not have to be deceptive or illegal, but which should be attentive to are:

  • The ecology. Fortunately, we are becoming aware of the importance of caring for the environment. Natural, ecological or environmentally friendly products “sell”. This is good news, but not all “green” products are for real.
  • Solidarity. As in the previous case, we must be attentive to those goods or services that claim to collaborate with certain solidarity projects. If they do, great, but if there’s nothing behind the ad, it’s misleading.
  • The half truths. It is another frequent case, excessively highlighting an ingredient or a quality of a product that, although it may be true (it actually contains that ingredient), the amounts or results are clearly exaggerated.
misleading advertising Parapharmacy (bigstock)

Medicines, especially sensitive products

If any advertisement must be based on the truth, in the case of medicines or parapharmacy products that are related to health, this reality is especially important. “Miracle” weight loss products, creams for immediate pain relief, vitamin compounds to “rejuvenate” … many older people are especially vulnerable consumers to certain advertisements of this type that, in certain cases, could be considered misleading advertising.

Both the Ministry of Health (@sanitygob) as independent advertising self-regulatory bodies establish strict rules and codes of ethics that guarantee the good practices both in the advertising of medicines that can be purchased without a prescription, and in advertising for the promotion of self-care products. Foster the idea of ​​a rational use of medicines, always comply with the information that appears in the technical data sheet or package leaflet, not be attributed as exclusive common characteristics that other similar drugs may have, not rely on testimonials or recommendations from medical professionals, or include in written advertising all relevant information so that it turns out legible and discernible are some of those rules for responsible advertising that the Ministry emphasizes.