Lowest price ever? Your pitch must be based on fact

2011-03-02 00:00

THE Consumer Protection Act requires fair and responsible marketing of goods and services.

While most suppliers would consider their current marketing practices fair and responsible, a significant portion of advertising seeks to create an ideal image of the goods or services and requires consumers to exercise their discretion in deciding what to take literally.

The act will demand more of a supplier.

The general standards for marketing will prohibit suppliers from marketing, either by words or conduct, in manner that is reasonably likely to imply a false or misleading representation in relation to any fact material to the consumer.

This prohibition extends to exaggerations, innuendos, ambiguity and a failure to disclose a material fact to deceive the consumer. An important extension of the supplier’s responsibility is the obligation to correct any misapprehensions in the mind of the consumer apparent to the supplier that, if not corrected, would be considered false, misleading or deceptive. As the courts are required to interpret the act in future, more clarity on what will amount to false, misleading or deceptive representations will be obtained. In the meantime suppliers should be cautious in their approach to marketing because the act will always be interpreted to favour the consumer.

Statements such as “lowest price ever” or “the best deal” must be based on fact and not made flippantly. Exaggerations regarding the benefits, advantages or uses of the goods or services must be avoided. For example, promoting instant weight loss and immediately improved appearance or health will present problems to the suppliers if they cannot follow through on the results advertised.

Even impressions created by photographs or advertisements suggesting a lifestyle or status associated with the use of a particular product should be carefully considered.

If you make any statements relating to the nature, properties and advantages of and uses of goods, the condition in which goods are supplied and the prices at which goods are supplied, ensure that all representations are accurate.

The Witness, in association with Deneys Reitz Inc, will publish a weekly column on the Consumer Protection Act, which comes into effect on April 1, touching on a variety of topics to inform businesses and consumers about the widespread and serious implications of the act. Next week’s topic is “liability for damage caused by goods”.

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