Your new business is on the road and you’re ready to put your brand out there. Before you invest all the time and energy this project deserves, here is some advice on avoiding common pitfalls when advertising your new business.
Whether you are sticking to the mobile ad space that your van provides or seeking to expand through local advertising , there are several legal issues you should know about. Let’s recap the main principles.
Be truthful and accurate in all your communications
For starters, you cannot mislead your customers regarding the nature of your product, service, or business. Common failings include false claims, deceptive messages, or leaving out essential information. You must be able to back up (that is, prove) any claims you make. If you claim your miracle stain remover can remove any type of stain – and it can’t – you could be fined or prosecuted. Likewise, advertising yourself as “Brighton’s No.1 Solar Panel Installer” would be regarded by the CAP as an objective claim regarding your market share, to be backed up by comparative data.
You could also be liable when providing a service and/or product without including everything you had advertised, or if you do not carry out a service with “reasonable care and skill”. That’s because when a customer purchases a product or service, you both enter a contract that includes their statutory rights. These rights bear on any kind of trade descriptions, even those that aren’t explicitly “ads”: think of labelling, signs, or any material that can significantly influence a customer’s choice of purchase.
To sum up, consumers (and businesses) are legally protected from unfair commercial practices, which include inaccurate or misleading descriptions, regardless of intent. Even if you accidentally deceive your customers, they could be entitled to return whatever goods they’ve purchased (if possible), not to mention obtain a refund and/or claim damages.
Mind the specific rules for specific products and claims
A number of specialty products are subject to their own advertising regulations, such as food, alcohol, beauty products, “environmentally-friendly” products, medicines, or tobacco. Some cannot be advertised through a specific medium: radio and television ads are prohibited for the products listed in Section 10 of the UK BCAP Code , which include tobacco products and electronic cigarettes.
Other rules apply to specific claims that you can make, for instance regarding nutritional value. The UK CAP Code states that marketing communications can only make nutrition claims outlined in the Annex of the relevant EU regulation (and likewise for health claims ).
State your price and remove any ambiguity
Part of being truthful and accurate is being straightforward about your price. Advertisements must describe the actual cost of a product or service accurately. That obviously includes ongoing or associated costs like subscription fees, but also VAT. If your advertised price for a product or service does not include VAT, you must say so. Otherwise, your advert will be misleading: customers will experience the standard VAT rate as a 20% price hike instead of a normal tax.