In the United States, a business must abide by many laws as it advertises and markets its services, whether it is a multinational conglomerate or a home-based operation. With so many different laws on the books, covering a wide variety of situations and threatening a vast array of penalties, it can be difficult to remember everything you need to know—even if you're a consumer trying to protect your rights! This guide will help demystify the rules of marketing and advertising for everybody.
General Offers and Claims: Products and Services
Many advertising laws are applicable to all businesses. Offers and claims must fall within the bounds of truth in advertising, and avoid misrepresenting products—no matter what the product or service in question happens to be. Other guidelines cover the transmission of commercial messages through various media, and the use of certain "special" advertising methods, such as testimonials and endorsements. These rules form the bedrock of consumer protection from unscrupulous claims, and every business must adhere to them.
- Federal Trade Commission: The official website of the main federal agency tasked with protecting consumers and regulating business matters related to false advertising and fraud. It offers information, news, and resources for consumers seeking to protect themselves, and for business owners making sure their companies are in compliance.
- Federal Trade Commission: The full text (provided by Cornell University Law School) of the legislation that established the FTC and delineated its specific purpose and powers.
- Federal Communications Commission: The official website of the federal regulatory body principally responsible for broadcast media such as television and radio, and for the enforcement of laws relating to false advertising and fraud across these media.
- Truth in Commercials and Product Misrepresentation: A detailed article from the Princeton University Law Journal that discusses laws and regulations pertinent to product misrepresentation and truth in broadcast commercials, and how relevant laws are applied and enforced.
- The Lanham Act: The full text of the main (but not the only) legislation dealing with the registration of trademarks, service marks, and related indicia.
- Refund Law & Legal Definition: Basic information on the tenets of refund law as they apply generally throughout the United States.
- Refund Policies: Further information on California refund laws, provided by the state attorney general's office.
- Advertising to Children: An extremely detailed article discussing the legislation that applies to advertising aimed at children, and the role of the FCC in enforcing these laws.
Protecting Consumer Privacy Online
Consumer privacy online is an emergent and very serious concern among federal regulatory bodies. Though it is difficult to legislate matters on the Internet, and much activity goes on that is completely within the scope of current regulation, lawmakers are continually engaged in assessing what kinds of changes may be necessary to protect consumers and encourage fair dealing online.
- Consumer Privacy Guide: An informational guide that provides direct links to legislation protecting consumer privacy, as well as discussions about those laws' use and implications.
- Children's Online Privacy Protection Act: Information on the principal legislation governing the ways in which website owners may and may not collect information from users below the age of majority.
- The CAN-SPAM Act: Legislation related to the use of unsolicited commercial communication ("spam") as an advertising tool on the Internet. Note, this legislation did not pass and nothing new is currently on the table.