How to detect misleading ads

(Source: http://green.yahoo.com/blog/the_conscious_consumer/79/how-to-detect-misleading-ads.html)

By Lori Bongiorno

Posted Thu Jun 18, 2009 10:33am PDT

How do you know if an ad is telling the truth? It’s not always easy, but there are certain clues you can look for to determine if the claims an ad is making are legit or if a marketer is purposely trying to mislead you into thinking a product is healthier, safer, or greener than it truly is.

Here are some ways to determine if advertising claims are fact or fiction…

Words matter. Look for specific rather than general claims. The following words are essentially meaningless because they are too vague and/or there aren’t any standard definitions for them:

  • Natural
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Nontoxic
  • Fragrance-free or unscented
  • Free range
  • Hormone-free
  • Antibiotic-free
  • Eco-friendly, environmentally preferable, or eco-safe
  • Green

Meaningless claims are ubiquitous in the marketplace. For instance, about 33 percent of food and beverage products launched last year made some kind of “natural” claim. When shopping, it’s safer to look for specific attributes, but there are no guarantees because in many cases there’s no one verifying the manufacturers claims.

Some examples of specific claims:

  • Made from post-consumer recycled paper
  • Formaldehyde-free
  • No additives
  • No animal byproducts
  • No parabens
  • Phosphate-free

Visit Consumer Reports’ Eco-labels center to find out which labels and terms you can trust.

Look for proof. Choose products with claims that can be verified or that have been certified by a third party. These products have been vetted by an independent agency to ensure that they meet certain standards. Some credible logos to look for include USDA Organic, Energy Star, Forest Stewardship Council certified, Rainforest Alliance certified, and Green Seal.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission recently charged K-Mart and other companies with making deceptive and unsubstantiated biodegradable claims on some paper products. The FTC is expected to update its outdated regulations for green advertising claims sometime this year. Hopefully consumers won’t have to read between the lines quite as much if the government cracks down on misleading claims.

Rely on experts. These websites do the homework for you…[see original article for list of websites]:
http://green.yahoo.com/blog/the_conscious_consumer/79/how-to-detect-misleading-ads.html

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