What do we need to think about when wanting to use words such as “the best” or the “fastest growing” in our marketing and advertising?
Not many small business owners realise that there are actually quite a lot of laws around marketing and advertising.
The Advertising Standards Authority regulates non-broadcast marketing with the CAP Code and there is a general obligation in the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations to not be misleading in any way in our marketing to consumers. The Misleading Marketing Regulations introduced a general prohibition on advertising that misleads traders.
With expressions such as “the best” or “the fastest growing”, we need to consider whether they are (i) “meer puffery”, where the average consumer would know that this is an exaggeration and not a genuine claim or (ii) claims that a consumer would be likely to believe as true.
If the consumer would be likely to believe the claim, then there needs to be objective grounds for the claim and objective evidence to back that up.
If a complaint was to be made about such advertising – and this would typically be by your competitors – the ASA would investigate and make a ruling on your advertising. They can instruct you to remove and cease to use such advertising going forwards and will name and shame you on their website. They can also report you to Trading Standards who can take you to court where you could be given an unlimited fine.
The least risky thing to do if you do want to make claims such as “the best” or “the fastest growing”, if it's not possible to provide an objective justification for this wider claim, is to narrow down your claim as much as possible, so that an objective justification is possible.
Rather than saying “we are the fastest growing legal consultancy”, you could say “we are the fastest growing legal consultancy in England helping sole traders within the coaching profession”. Keep all of your documentary evidence objectively substantiating the claim to hand in case of any challenge.
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© Suzanne Dibble 2013-2022
The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this article are not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of this article. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this article. We disclaim all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this article.