The Federal Trade Commission today released an FTC-commissioned study indicating that when marketers use the phrase “up to” in claims about their products, many consumers are likely to believe that they will achieve the maximum “up to” results. The study describes what a test group of consumers thought about ads for replacement home windows that purportedly would provide “up to 47%” savings in energy costs.
The FTC believes the report will help guide advertisers to avoid the use of misleading “up to” claims. It reinforces the FTC’s view that advertisers using these claims should be able to substantiate that consumers are likely to achieve the maximum results promised under normal circumstances.
The report summarizes the results of a test conducted in conjunction with investigations of five companies that, in February, settled FTC charges that they made unsupported claims about their windows’ energy efficiency and how much they would reduce consumers’ heating and cooling bills. The cases are part of the agency’s efforts to ensure that environmental marketing is truthful and based on scientific evidence.
While this report is focused on windows and energy efficiency it seems to be a clear indication of how the FTC views the “up to” claims in general, including those used in debt relief sales.
As an example, the study found “Over two-fifths (43%) of respondents exposed to the “up to” version of the ad indicated that in their personal opinion, half or more of Bristol Windows users could expect to save about 47% on their heating and cooling bills.” Clearly consumers that see “up to” claims may get the wrong impression that it indicates the results the average consumer should expect from the services or products being offered.
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