BBB Launches New Online Tool to Report Bad Ads

Advertising Law

The Better Business Bureau announced a new online tool that allows consumers to report suspicious or questionable ads directly to the organization.

Part of the organization’s AdTruth initiative, the tool asks consumers a series of questions to gather information about the challenged advertisement. For example, consumers are asked for the name of the company whose products or services were featured in the ad and where they viewed it.

The BBB requests as much detail as possible in an open-ended box asking, “What was misleading or confusing?” as well as a second catchall answer box: “Is there anything else you would like to tell us about why you found the ad misleading or confusing?” The tool can accept screenshots and photos, and consumers have the option of providing their contact information if the organization needs additional information or if they are willing to talk with the media.

Consumers are encouraged to report any advertisement they believe may be questionable. “Not all reports will refer to ads in violation of the BBB Code of Advertising, but all reports provide valuable insights regarding what consumers find questionable,” the organization explained. “BBB staff members are aware of other rules regarding misleading or confusing advertising and will work with the business to bring the advertising into compliance.”

Once submitted, the report is reviewed by the BBB. If the staff determines that a violation of the Code of Advertising occurred, the organization reaches out to the business to improve its advertising.

“Misleading advertising is a huge source of frustration for both consumers and honest businesses in today’s marketplace,” Melissa Trumpower, executive director of the BBB Institute for Marketplace Trust, said in a statement. “Although BBB has always called out fraudulent, confusing or unsubstantiated advertising, this new reporting function provides another way for consumers to be our allies in the fight for truth-in-advertising.”

Why it matters: The new online tool is the latest addition to the BBB’s AdTruth program, launched in 2013 to teach consumers how to identify and report suspicious or misleading advertisements. Whether consumers embrace the new tool remains to be seen, but advertisers could be facing another level of oversight if it becomes popular.



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