It’s on the Internet, So It Must Be True!

Photo by Jon Sullivan [Public domain]
Photo by Jon Sullivan [Public domain]
Everyone knows that it’s easy to get caught up in the sheer volume of information on the Internet; just about anything you want to research is online somewhere. Just the other day, out of curiosity, I went on Google to see how many noses a snail has. Will I ever need this information? No, probably not. But the answer is out there so I just had to find it. Fun fact: they have four.

But researching businesses on the Internet can be slightly harder than finding snail nose facts. Despite what everyone dares to hope, not everything on the Internet is true and dishonest advertising is everywhere. That’s where Better Business Bureau can help.

The Code of Advertising is designed to guide businesses in making factual claims on websites and other advertisements. In doing so, the Code also protects consumers by minimizing the risks that they are deceived or misled by dishonest marketing.

Honest businesses will follow all of the standards in the Code and will be able to substantiate their advertisements. Keep the following points in mind when reviewing websites:

1. The company advertises a guarantee or warranty on its products or services.

In high school I worked at a sporting goods store and had to try and upsell customers into buying additional warranties on everything from exercise equipment to battery-operated water bottle fans. The point is that there are warranties on nearly everything. Make sure that businesses advertise, in writing, the limitations/durations of these promises and who is required to fulfill the warranty obligations if issues arise.

2. The company makes definitive statements without substantiation.

One word can make the difference between a factual statement and a deceptive statement. One word? Really? The answer is yes. For example, a company implies that it is the largest and most successful when it advertises itself as “the” leader rather than “a” leader. But, can that statement be proved? Make sure that companies can back up any statements they have on their websites and ask for proof if necessary.

3. The company advertises BBB Accreditation on its website.

When it comes to advertising BBB Accreditation and letter grades on the Internet, it’s always a good idea to double check. A business that uses BBB’s online seal on its website is required to display it in a very specific manner and it should link directly to the correct BBB Business Review. BBB ratings change all the time; never assume that an advertised rating is correct without visiting bbb.org.

Remember, BBB’s name and seal are trademarked; misrepresenting BBB Accreditation is not only illegal, but fundamentally deceptive and wrong. BBB team members work hard to scrub the Internet of non-accredited businesses that try to gain a competitive advantage by using the well-recognized seal and you can help! Submit BBB fakers to adreview@thebbb.org.

Advertisers bear primary responsibility for truthful and non-deceptive advertising. So whether it’s researching snails or hiring a business, make sure to verify any and all claims.

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