Misleading advertising

What is misleading advertising?

Under the consumer law advertising is seen as misleading if it involves false, misleading or deceptive information that is likely to cause the average consumer to act in a way they might otherwise not.  Advertising may also be considered misleading if important information that the average consumer needs to make an informed decision is left out.  Misleading advertising covers claims made directly to consumers by manufacturers, distributors and retailers, as well as in advertisements, catalogues, websites etc.

Examples of misleading advertising

  • A false claim about the characteristics of the goods or service, e.g. – a product is a different colour, size or weight to what is advertised.
  • The price or way the price is calculated is misrepresented, e.g. – products are advertised at sale prices, but turn out not to be.
  • The way the goods or service are supplied is misrepresented, e.g. – free delivery is advertised, but the delivery actually involves some sort of fee or charge.
  • Any aspect about the advertiser is misrepresented, e.g. – the business is presented as being a member of a trade association, when they are actually not.
  • The advertisement creates a false impression about a product or service, even if the information given is correct.
  • Any important information is hidden or left out.

Forms of advertisement

Remember that advertisements may take many different forms, such as:

  • Press advertisements in newspapers or magazines
  • Television or radio commercials
  • Posters telling the public about an event or concert
  • Digital advertisements on websites or mobile phones
  • Websites
  • Shop signs (giving information unique to a particular shop)
  • Sales/direct mail letters
  • Faxes of promotional material
  • Catalogues

What can you do about misleading advertising?

You should contact us if you feel an advertisement is misleading or false. The CCPC is responsible for enforcing the rules around business advertising in Ireland. Under the Consumer Protection Act we can take action, where appropriate, against businesses we have found to mislead consumers.

The Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI) also allows members of the public to complain about possible misleading advertisements. The ASAI is a self-regulatory body set up and financed by the advertising industry to promote better standards in advertising and sales promotion.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland is responsible for the advertisement of food products. They allow consumers to make complaints about misleading food information on their website.

Consumer credit advertising

There are additional rules for the advertisement of credit (loans, hire purchase agreements etc.) to consumers. These include:

  • Giving the Annual Percentage Rate (APR) a prominent place in the advertisement
  • Indicating whether security is required
  • Stating any restrictions on the availability of credit
  • Details of any charges other than the payments and interest

The Central Bank of Ireland is responsible for enforcing these rules.  For more information about consumer credit advertising rules visit the Citizens Information Board’s website.

Last updated on 28 June 2021