To avoid being false advertising, an online advertisement (on a website, through e-mail, or multimedia) must:
- Be truthful
- Not be misleading
- Not be unfair
In addition, an advertiser must have sufficient evidence to back up any claims made in the advertisement.
To avoid making a misleading claim, an advertisement may need a disclosure to be included with the ad. All disclosures must be clear and conspicuous. To determine if a disclosure is clear and conspicuous, consider:
- Whether the disclosure is placed in close proximity to its corresponding claim so as to make an obvious connection between the two
- The prominence of the disclosure – if the disclosure is not readily visible, there should be a link or scrolling function that is visible to let the viewer know there is further information
- Whether other parts of the ad distract attention from the disclosure
- For multimedia audio messages: there must be adequate volume and cadence of disclosures
- Whether language and wording of the disclosure is understandable to the intended audience
Also, any disclosure must be displayed on the screen prior to purchase of the product being advertised.
Some advertisements sent through e-mail can create false impressions that the recipient was "specifically selected" for an offer not available to the general public. This is especially true when the offer is being viewed through a more intimate medium, like a website. Therefore, if an email invites consumers to telephone the sender to purchase goods or services offered, the phone call is subject to Telemarketing Sales Rules, as is the subsequent sale.
If you feel that you have been defrauded by a false advertisement, you should first contact your state consumer protection agency. If the false advertising had serious effects on your business or person, conferring with a lawyer is essential. An experienced business attorney can evaluate your case and inform you of your rights. If you have been accused of false advertising, you should speak to a lawyer immediately.