USE OF THE WORD “FREE” AND OTHER SIMILAR REPRESENTATIONS
A product or service that is offered without cost or obligation to the recipient may be unqualifiedly described as “free.”
If a product or service is offered as “free,” all qualifications and conditions should be clearly and conspicuously disclosed, in close conjunction with the use of the term “free” or other similar phrase.
When the term “free” or other similar representations are made (e.g., 2-for-1, half-price, or 1-cent offers), the product or service required to be purchased should not have been increased in price or decreased in quality or quantity.
Price comparisons, including those between a marketer’s current price and a former, future, or suggested price, or between a marketer’s price and the price of a competitor’s comparable product, should be fair and accurate.
In each case of comparison to a former, manufacturer’s suggested, or competitor’s comparable product price, recent substantial sales should have been made at that price in the same trade area.
For comparisons with a future price, there should be a reasonable expectation that the new price will be charged in the foreseeable future.
If a product or service is offered with a guarantee or a warranty, either the terms and conditions should be set forth in full in the promotion, or the promotion should state how the consumer may obtain a copy. The guarantee should clearly state the name and address of the guarantor and the duration of the guarantee.
Any requests for repair, replacement, or refund under the terms of a guarantee or warranty should be honored promptly. In an unqualified offer of refund, repair, or replacement, the customer’s preference should prevail.
USE OF TEST OR SURVEY DATA
All test or survey data referred to in advertising should be valid and reliable as to source and methodology, and should support the specific claim for which it is cited.
TESTIMONIALS AND ENDORSEMENTS
Testimonials and endorsements in any media (including, but not limited to, such comments on a company’s website and via social networking sites, online message boards, blogging, and “word-of-mouth” marketing) should be used only if they:
- Are authorized by the person quoted;
- Are accurate, genuine and related to the experience of the person giving them, both at the time made and at the time of the promotion, and disclose the expertise of the endorser in terms of whether he or she is an expert for the purposes of the advertisement or simply a consumer endorser;
- Are not taken out of context so as to distort the endorser’s opinion or experience with the product or service;
- Clearly and conspicuously disclose any material connections between the endorser and marketer, which the consumer would not expect. A material connection refers to a connection between the endorser and marketer that materially affects the weight or credibility of the endorsement, such as payments or free products, or an employer/employee relationship; and
- Clearly and conspicuously disclose the generally expected, or typical, results/performance of the advertised products or services, if the claims made are not typical of what a user could expect under normal circumstances.
A marketer should be able to provide prior and adequate substantiation, including providing reliable scientific evidence, as necessary, for any claims of efficacy (i.e., whether the product/service will actually do what the marketer says it will do, typicality (i.e., whether the typical consumer will have an experience like that of the endorser), and environmental benefit. The marketer should also be able to substantiate that the endorser was a bona fide user of the product at the time of the endorsement.
Additionally, marketers should ensure that their celebrity endorsers disclose their relationships with marketers when making endorsements outside the context of traditional advertisements, such as on talk shows or in social media, and they should not knowingly make statements that are false or unsubstantiated.
For purposes of this article, the terms “testimonial” and “endorsement” refer to an advertising or marketing message made in any channel that consumers are likely to believe reflects the opinions, beliefs, findings, or experiences of a party other than the sponsor of the message, even if the views expressed by that party are identical to those of the sponsor. Testimonials and endorsements can be verbal statements, demonstrations, or depictions of the name, signature, likeness or other identifying personal characteristics of an individual, or the name or seal of an organization.