Fine print in advertisements

Written on the 30 May 2014 by Macmillans Waller Fry - Accountants in Maitland

The High Court has reinforced the importance for businesses in taking care when advertising their products and services.

In June 2012 the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) was successful in obtaining orders in the Federal Court penalising TPG for engaging in misleading and deceptive conduct in their advertisements by putting important information in the fine print.

Businesses should consider implementing a four-step process for determining whether an advertisement is misleading:

  1. Identify the ‘dominant message’ or ‘headline claim’ of the advertisement
  2. Determine whether the dominant message, without any qualification, conveys a misleading impression
  3. If it would be misleading, identify whether the advertisement also contains any qualification or condition which corrects the misleading impression given by the dominant message
  4. Consider whether the qualification or condition is given sufficient prominence in the advertisement so that an ordinary and reasonable consumer would notice the qualification and be disabused of the misleading impression from the dominant message.

The final step requires people to use their own common sense and judgement in determining whether the advertisement is misleading.

When the High Court considers misleading conduct it takes into consideration a variety of factors, including:

  • the extent to which the ‘dominant message’ is misleading
  • the nature of the product being advertised
  • the nature of the target audience of the advertisement
  • the medium in which the advertisement is placed

Author: Macmillans Waller Fry - Accountants in Maitland

 

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