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How to Comply with Advertising Laws

Truth-in-Advertising Laws

Advertising laws protect consumers by requiring advertisers to be truthful about their products and to be able to substantiate their claims. All businesses must comply with advertising and marketing laws, and failure to do so could result in costly lawsuits and civil penalties. So before you start an advertising campaign, it's important for you to understand some basic rules.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the main federal agency that enforces advertising laws and regulations. Under the Federal Trade Commission Act:

  • Advertising must be truthful and non-deceptive

  • Advertisers must have evidence to back up their claims

  • Advertisements cannot be unfair

Additional laws apply to ads for specialized products like consumer leases, credit, ads with a 900 telephone number, and products sold through mail order or telephone sales. State and local governments also regulate advertising, and enforcement is usually the responsibility of a state attorney general, a consumer protection agency or a local district attorney.

The following resources and how-to guides are designed to help you comply with federal advertising laws.

General Information

Pricing Rules

Endorsements and Testimonials

Explains how to advertise using endorsements from customers, experts and critical reviews.

State and Local Advertising Laws

Individual states and some localities have also passed specific truth-in-advertising laws. The Consumer Action Handbook provides links to state and local agencies responsible for enforcing truth-in-advertising and related consumer protection laws.