The Federal Trade Commission does not directly oversee broadcasters, but broadcasters can be dragged into issues that are within the agencies purview when it comes to false or otherwise objectionable advertising. The good news for the year 2010: That category is not on the FTC’s top ten list.
The same cannot be said for the internet, however. It is specifically mentioned twice and is a possible venue for other practices that irk consumers as well.
The FTC routinely takes action against companies that use of false or misleading advertising. Common categories involve unsubstantiated claims of a product’s environmental friendliness, ability to cure or prevent certain diseases, or ability to promote weight loss without concurrent diet and exercise programs. It is also not uncommon to see companies cashiered by the FTC for making false claims about their ability to help financially-distressed consumers beset by mortgages going into default or – to mention a topic that made a few headlines in 2010 – ability to reduce or eliminate IRS debt.
However, those FTC actions are generally targeted at the companies making the claims, not at the broadcasters carrying the advertisements. While broadcasters best serve their audience by keeping false or misleading advertising off the airwaves, they are not expected to authorities on what is and is not false or misleading.
Here then, is the Top 10 FTC complaint list for 2010.
1. Identity Theft, 250,854 (19%)
2. Debt Collection, 144,159 (11%)
3. Internet Services, 65,565 (5%)
4. Prizes, Sweepstakes and Lotteries, 64,085 (5%)
5. Shop-at-Home and Catalog Sales, 60,205 (4%)
6. Imposter Scams, 60,158 (4%)
7. Internet Auctions, 56,107 (4%)
8. Foreign Money/Counterfeit Check Scams, 43,866 (3%)
9. Telephone and Mobile Services, 37,388 (3%)
10. Credit Cards, 33,258 (2%)