By: Constance Lee Menefee

It pays to advertise, but only if you adhere to the law. Legal definitions abound for familiar concepts such as: list and lowest price, irregular, factory direct, as is, up to, free, trade-in allowance, distress sale, comparative pricing, easy credit, and no credit rejected.

A single word can cast a slogan or ad into doubt. For example, Wal-Mart had a slogan used in national advertising that said, "Always the low price. Always."

This seemed to suggest that prices would always be lowest at the giant retailer. At least that's how it read to a small retailer who brought his complaint to the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

They agreed with Wal-Mart that the slogan only generally conveyed that the retailer had low prices. The small retailer then appealed to the National Advertising Review Board which agreed with him. Wal-Mart was asked to drop "the" from their slogan.

The process of sustaining truth and accuracy in national advertising through voluntary self-regulation by businesses began in 1971 with the creation of both the National Advertising Division and the National Advertising Review Board.

The complaint process is straightforward: If you, as a consumer or business owner, believe a national ad is deceptive or misleading, put the query or complaint in writing. A letter is fine. Enclose copies of print ads and detailed descriptions of radio or television ads. Don't forget to mention the exact product and company!  Mail your materials to: Director, National Advertising Division, Council of Better Business Bureaus, 845 Third Ave., New York, NY 10022.

If you have questions about the truthfulness of local advertising - appearing only in towns and cities served by local companies or divisions of national chains - get in touch with your local BBB or the Federal Trade Commission.


  Article originally appeared in the Cincinnati Post, June 23, 1998