Truth in Advertising in Arizona

Article excerpt

Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods has drafted a stiff set of guidelines that call for literal truth in advertising on everything from going-out-of-business sales to manufacturers' claims.

"If you' re going out of business, go out of business," Wood said in a recent speech at the Phoenix Ad Club.

Woods will hold four public hearings on his draft of "proposed advertising guidelines," which he says are designed to assist advertisers in preparing ads and be helpful to consumers.

Sam Pepper, president of the Arizona Newspaper Association and publisher of the Yuma Daily Sun, told E&P that Woods did not consult ANA while preparing the guidelines, although he announced plans for them at the association's summer conference. Pepper said he did not believe they presented any problem for newspapers.

"Most of us are doing these things with our advertisers on our newspapers," he stated.

However, Pepper said he and other publishers plan to attend the hearings this month and next month in Yuma, Phoenix, Flagstaff and Tucson.

Woods, a strong consumer protection advocate, has stressed that the guidelines do not preclude his office from filing civil or criminal action under the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act.

Under the guidelines, advertisements cannot contain false statements, endorsements, information, drawings or photos "which have the capacity to mislead." False statements include competitors' products or services.

Moreover, the guidelines go on, advertisers are duty-bound to substantiate or verify all claims in ads and cannot use unsubstantiated manufacturers' claims.

Woods also insists that a sale price must represent a "significant reduction" from the advertiser's regular price. Sales advertising must "present the facts," including the reference and sale price terms, starting and ending dates, and any special purpose for the sale such as distress or item closeouts.

If comparative pricing is used, the ad must compare the price to the dealer's true regular price, his true future price, and the true cost of the identical product sold elsewhere. Among other Woods guidelines:

* Advertised endorsements and testimonials must be supported by the advertiser's own independent product or service experience. A retailer cannot claim that endorsements are from "actual consumers" if models are used in the ad. …