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Monday, April 03, 2017

Fake News Is No Worse Than Fake Advertising

The media has been bombarding us for nearly a year with their pompous outrage over “fake news”. The democrats are blaming the republicans, and parties are blaming the media, and everyone is blaming the Russians.

But what about fake advertising? Where is the media’s outrage when a car dealer advertises a car to make you believe it’s brand new, but when you try to buy it, you find out, either doesn’t exist, or it’s a used car? Most of the car dealer advertisements that you see on TV, hear on the radio, view online, read in the newspaper are FAKE.

The Federal Trade Commission, FTC, has regulation that requires the advertiser to display any fact that changes the price or payment of an advertised product in a clear and conspicuous fashion. The FTC says that this means it must be portrayed adjacent to the advertised price or payment and in as big letters. The next time you’re watching a car advertisement on TV, try to read the fine print. You’ll be lucky if you even notice it because it’s flashed on the screen for only a second or two, and the print is so small you couldn’t read it even if it stayed on the screen for 30 seconds.

The only reason I know what is being disclaimed in the fine print is because I’ve gone to the trouble of standing within inches of my TV screen with a high-resolution camera and taking a picture of the fine print which I then enlarge. This is how I discover the “$5,000 down payment” required for the low monthly payment advertised in large print along with the loud audio. I see $999.95 dealer fees, $398 electronic filing fees, $149 doc fees, $79.50 tag agency fees, etc. These “fees” are disguised, hidden profit to the dealer.

Another common deceit hidden in the fine print are price “qualifiers” that are impossible for the buyer to have. Most common are rebates named military, college graduate, conquest, and loyalty. Military means that you must be on active duty in the military. College graduate means that you must have graduated from a 4-year accredited college within the last 6 months. Conquest means that you must own or lease car which is not the same make as the car you’re looking at. Loyalty means that you must drive a car that is NOT the same make. These rebates, totaling over $1,000, are deducted from the advertised price.

What I’ve disclosed to you is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to car dealers’ deceptive advertising. Why, you ask, does the media allow these advertisements to run? You probably know the answer before I tell you…M O N E Y. Car dealer advertising and car manufacturer advertising are two of the media’s largest sources of revenue.

Maybe IBM’s Watson could calculate how many billions of dollars are stolen from consumers in this country annually by fake advertising. All of our politicians are talking about lowering taxes, repatriating overseas money, and cutting costly regulations (we have plenty of regulations against false advertising but no enforcement).

I would like to see a politician run on the platform that she or he would stop fake advertising. He could do this largely by enforcing the laws and regulation we already have on the books. I would recommend one more law. Make it illegal for the media to run an advertisement that violated federal, state, or local laws.

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