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One's perspective on advertising is largely a result of the advertising practices that one is accustomed to.]

In the United States, it is commonly accepted that deceptive advertising is not tolerated; the Federal Trade Commission or the Attorney General of the state affected will respond to complaints of deceptive advertising, and class action suits are also available to deter such practices.

Balancing the principle of honest and ethical business practices which underlies this notion is the idea of laissez-faire, which would allow businesses to offer products and services under whatever terms that others will agree to, because the complexity of such terms often makes it difficult to provide all the relevant details as part of the advertisement.

Here's an example from several years back:

At a time when most major credit cards imposed an annual fee, one card issuer offered a card with "no annual fee". Sounds simple enough. The catch (or one of the catches) was that the card had, instead, a monthly fee, which would be imposed only in those months in which the card was used.

The exitence of the monthly fee was not conspicuously disclosed in the advertising; although this arrangement would certain be preferential to an annual fee for some consumers, those looking to be able to use the card without paying any fees would be disappointed when they learned the details.

In the United States, such advertising tends to be tolerated by the authorities. When the law does step in, it's too little, too late. The much ballyhooed class action will almost always be too late, while enforcement agencies rarely obtain any payment from the offender other than the investigative costs, while the business may have made hundreds of times that from the questionable advertising.

In the UK, an Advertising Standards Authority (which seems to be a government agency with can declare an advertisement as misleading, though the effect of such a declaration is unclear) reviewed a complaint about an advertisement for a bank account. In one case, (see ) Abbey National Bank made the following claims (these are paraphrased):

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) noted that:

Based on this, the ASA declared that the advertisement was deceptive.

It's unlikely that a similar advertisement would have come to the attention of U.S. regulators. At most, we would have seen a bunch of fine print to qualify these claims.

Fine print is problematic: the advertiser has already gained from the deceptive claims by getting the reader's attention; the time required to read and interpret the fine print creates an inefficient process, which detracts from the benefits of competition; some readers will not completely read and understand the fine print, and will make a wrong decision based on the impression they got from the deceptive claims. Avoiding these results is the purpose behind prohibiting deceptive advertising. We all lose when deceptive advertising becomes the norm.

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