YES! Advertising laws are complicated. There are a lot of them. And there are even more urban myths about what rights consumers have (or do not have). But the consumer and advertising laws have a dominant theme: don’t screw your customer and trick them into buying stuff from you. That seems like common sense, right? It isn’t always, though. I have seen many a good company get bit by things like “ladies night” (illegal in California, for example). Anyone who has been reading my blogs for a while knows that I am not a big fan of government regulations. Ladies Night is a perfect example of a regulation having a perverse effect (it’s illegal because it’s gender discrimination!). That being said, I have experiences that make me understand why they exist. For example, I was recently approached by Covington Who’s Who for inclusion in their book and on their website. I said no. They pressed on and repeatedly lowered their price. Finally, they offered me plane tickets as part of an online-only membership for $200. I asked, “what’s the catch?” They told me that the tickets have some restrictions but that was it. Since I fly a lot and can always use plane tickets and networking links into my website, I said “OK.” In retrospect, I shouldn’t have. First off, the catch on the plane tickets is that they require a 5-day hotel stay. Then they processed an order and billed me more than they represented and for the book that I specifically declined. (I never even got the book!) I immediately called them up and protested. The response: “We don’t have a recording of you saying ‘no’ so we will not refund it.” I say, “Do you have a recording of me saying, yes?” Well, of course they don’t. Hey, guys, that’s not how you make an enforceable contract! I’m annoyed. I will prevail because I’m abnormally stubborn. But it wastes my time. (Bonus Advice: if any of you get a call from Covington, tell them your lawyer advises against you affiliating with them because they suck.) All my clients are awesome people and ethical businesses, so I don’t need to tell you to not be like Covington. But I still made a video for you on general things to keep in mind when selling your products.
Are there any laws I should know about when advertising my business? YES! There are several, in fact – too many to list in this video. As a good starting place, keep in mind that the laws embody some general principles:
- Whatever you say about your business or products, be honest.
- Deal with your customers in good faith.
- Don’t send anyone anything they didn’t explicitly ask for.
- If it is unlawful discrimination in a shop, its unlawful discrimination online and in advertisements. Be very cautious when engaging in gender or race specific promotions and pricing.
- You should have fair and clear contracts governing your business affairs, including on your website or in advertisements.
- If you are advertising to children, control your content.
- Don’t copy other people’s work.