Tag Archives: advertising

Changes sweep auto dealers off the showroom floor

By Jason McGlone/advertising review BBB

Jason McGlone

The Federal Trade Commission recently announced a sizable sweep of auto dealerships nationwide about a range of issues impacting the structure of sale prices, financing, advertising disclosures, sweepstakes and prize winnings.

While none of the affected dealerships listed in the announcement is in the Boise area, issues cited are similar to advertising concerns the BBB® addresses with car dealerships on a regular basis. We hope the result of this sweep will encourage auto dealers across the country to pay closer attention to the structure of their offers, clearly show the details of their financing plans, and carefully select the type of advertising they use to get customers onto their lots to buy cars.

It’s worth mentioning that the great majority of the ads and other offers involved in the sweep seem to be reasonably typical lines of credit and/or solidly low prices. While they appear to be not entirely unbelievable offers, the problem lies within the purchasing of the vehicle. What many consumers don’t understand is that buying a car can be a complicated affair with many moving parts. Auto dealers are required and obligated to be involved with several different offices: federal, state, and municipal agencies and their respective laws, and the manufacturers whose products they sell come to mind. Ultimately, they have to make sure everyone is pleased with the deal while still making a profit.

The FTC created an accompanying article that makes deciphering these offers a little easier for consumers: “Are Car Ads Taking You for a Ride?”  It’s obviously for consumers, but the article could also prove to be helpful for car dealers in refocusing attention toward making sure advertising copy and fine print are in tip-top shape.

Whether you’re a consumer or a car dealer, BBB can help you to make sense of any questions you might have when sifting through auto ads. Feel free to get in touch with us and, of course, check out any auto dealers you’re considering buying from with bbb.org.


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Coin advertisements from U.S. Money Reserve may mislead buyers


This ad appeared in the Idaho Statesman on Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013.

A Texas-based coin seller claims to be authorized by Congress to sell for a limited-time $5 American Eagle Gold to the public, official United States government gold at cost.

What’s it mean? Coin collector ads may be misleading if  you don’t read the fine print. The Austin, Texas-based U.S. Money Reserve advertisement appearing in Wednesday’s (Sept. 18, 2013) includes fine print.

Better Business Bureau first contacted this company in February 2011 regarding its print advertisements appearing in the St. Louis Post and the Cincinnati Enquirer. BBB also questioned claims on the company’s website, www.usmoneyreserve.com. As a result of this review the company has agreed to modify or discontinue some claims.

However, as of March 2013, some advertising concerns remain outstanding. Specifically, the general layout of this company’s U.S Gov’t $5 Gold Eagle Coins “at cost” advertisements could imply an affiliation with the U.S. Government. The company’s print ads mentions of “Congress Public Law 99-185.” The advertisements do include a fine print disclaimer indicating the company is not affiliated with the government or U.S. Mint. BBB requested the company make the disclaimer more prominent and easy to read and further requested the company discontinue the use of the illustration.

The company responded by stating it believes the disclaimers are understandable and readable to the normal customer and stated that it would not discontinue the illustrations or modify the layout. BBB remains concerned that the overall layout or impression of the printed advertisement could imply some affiliation with the U.S. Government.

BBB Code of Advertising states that time limit sales and price-reduction offers should be rigidly observed. BBB requested that the company clarify whether or not this offer was temporary, final or ongoing as the offer appeared regularly in the company’s advertising. The company responded by stating that the offer is for new, current-year bullions at the company’s current at-cost price. The company further stated that the “final release” referred to in the advertisement is the final release of the coins at the stated price.

BBB requested the company clarify its advertising to make it clear that the “limited time” referred to the current at-cost price and to discontinue claiming “final release” unless there was a sincere and imminent possibility that the opportunity to purchase coins at cost would not be offered again. The company’s Sept. 18, 2013, “U.S Gov’t Gold Eagle Immediate at-Cost Release”advertisement in the Idaho Statesman shows claims have been modified.

Read more about this company here.

BBB offers the following tips when ordering coins and currency through the mail:

  • Read all advertising and marketing materials carefully to understand exactly what you will be receiving.  If you have any questions, ask the company directly.
  • Be wary of words that show that an item is valuable or will increase in value. There are no guarantees on the appreciation of coins or other collectibles.
  • Make sure you understand any extra fees such as processing or mailing costs.
  • Make sure you understand the company’s refund policy if you are not satisfied.
  • Compare prices online or with a local coin dealer.
  • Pay by credit card when possible in case you want to challenge the purchase.
  • Check a company’s BBB Business Review at www.bbb.org or at 208-342-4649.

Business at its Best, a television show produced by BBB serving the Snake River Region, talked about the qualities of dealing with a local coin dealer when buying or selling coins..

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Want to support a startup? be a startup? Research Crowdfunding first

Crowdfunding has emerged as an innovative way to get a business off the ground. Taking advantage of the Internet and social media, crowdfunding allows businesses to gather resources from people who want to help fund a startup.

Most crowdfunding projects seek contributions from people who think they have a great idea for a company, invention or project – but those who contribute won’t actually become part owners. Instead they may receive mention of their support or a gift, such as a T-shirt.

ID-100183758The 2012 Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act was designed to make it easier for startups to find investors – who will own equity in the new business – through crowdfunding.

The concept comes with advantages as well as potential pitfalls. For the creator, there is a risk that details posted online could be copied. For the small time investor, there is a potential for fraud.

Kickstarter recently canceled a project that it determined was a fake startup (Kobe Red – 100% Japanese Beer Fed Kobe Beef Jerky) just days before cash was to be released.

If you would like to give to a crowdfunding project, BBB has the following recommendations:

  • Investigate before you give. Find out what you can about the entrepreneur, artist or charity and see if it looks legitimate. Are there details on Facebook or other social media? Do they offer links for further verification?
  • Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to request information from the startup before you decide to pledge.
  • Budget your investment. Don’t give money you can’t afford to lose.
  • Don’t count on a deduction unless it’s a non-profit. Contributions to a crowdfunded charitable cause are not tax deductible unless the group receiving the funds is a 501 (c)(3) organization.
  • Report suspicious accounts. If you see a suspicious account on a crowdfunding site, report it. Supply as much detail as you can.

The U.S. Small Business Administration has a few tips for entrepreneurs who are interested in using crowdfunding:

  • Understand your commitment. Have a careful strategy, perfect your pitch to ensure it connects with your target investors.
  • Have resources to promote your pitch. Maintain momentum by being responsive to calls, emails and social media comments.
  • Find ways to create a buzz. Learn who your potential investors are and how to persuade them.
  • Be prepared for questions. Be ready to tell potential investors how you will spend the money, about your exit strategy, long- and short-term goals and what preparations you have in place.

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