process, both buyer and seller are involved. As discussed earlier, “buyer beware” imparts some responsibility to the buyer for believing and being susceptible to ads. Ethical issues arise whenever corporations target ads in manipulative, untruthful, subliminal, and coercive ways to vulnerable buyers such as children and minorities. Also, inserting harmful chemicals into products without informing the buyer is deceptive advertising. The tobacco industry’s use of nicotine and addictive ingredients in cigarettes was deceptive advertising.
The American Association of Advertising (AAA) has a code of ethics that helps organizations monitor their ads. The code cautions against false, distorted, misleading, and exaggerated claims and statements, as well as pictures that are offensive to the public and minority groups. The following questions can be used by both advertising corporations and consumers to gauge the ethics of ads:
1. Is the consumer being treated as a means to an end or as an end? And what and whose end? 2. Whose rights are being protected or violated intentionally and inadvertently? And at what and whose costs?
3. Are consumers being justly and fairly treated? 4. Are the public welfare and the common good taken into consideration for the effects as well as the intention of advertisements?
5. Has anyone been or will anyone be harmed from using this product or service?
The Federal Trade Commission and Advertising The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Department of Labor (DOL) are the federal agencies in the United States appointed and funded to monitor and eliminate false and misleading advertising when corporate self-regulation is not used or fails. Following is a sample of the FTC’s guidelines:
The FTC Act allows the FTC to act in the interest of all consumers to prevent deceptive and unfair practices. In interpreting Section 5 of the act, the Commission has determined that a representation, omission or practice is deceptive if it is likely to:
• mislead consumers • affect consumers’ behavior or decisions about the product or service
In addition, an act or practice is unfair if the injury it causes, or is likely to cause, is:
• substantial • not outweighed by other benefits • reasonably avoidable
The FTC Act prohibits unfair or deceptive advertising in any medium. A claim can be misleading if relevant information is left out or if the claim implies something that’s not true. For example, a lease advertisement for an automobile that promotes “$0 Down” may be misleading if significant and undisclosed charges are due at lease signing. In addition, claims must be substantiated, especially when they concern health, safety, or performance. The type of evidence may depend on the product, the claims, and what experts believe is necessary. If
Weiss, Joseph W.. <i>Business Ethics : A Stakeholder and Issues Management Approach</i>, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Incorporated, 2014. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/apus/detail.action?docID=1565988. Created from apus on 2019-06-15 17:18:23.