Advertising Basics

However you choose to promote your products or services, whether it is through social media, print media, radio, internet or television, your advertisements for goods and services for sale in Connecticut must be fair and accurate, not misleading nor deceptive. 
Regulations under the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA) describe numerous advertising methods that are deemed unfair trade practices; you should avoid these problematic methods.
Violators are subject to fines and penalties under CUTPA, in addition to possible court-ordered restitution or punitive damages. 
The following conditions apply to any advertisement published, delivered, broadcast or circulated within Connecticut. This is not a complete listing; please refer to the full regulation -- Sec. 42-110b-01.
Automobile Advertising --  It is an unfair or deceptive act for:
  • a new or used car dealer to fail or refuse to sell or lease a vehicle in accordance with any terms or conditions that the dealer has advertised, including, but not limited to, the advertised price.
  • a new or used car dealer to advertise any vehicle for sale or lease which is not new, unless the ad clearly and conspicuously discloses, in an area immediately adjacent to the reference of the advertised motor vehicle that the vehicle is used; the stock number of the vehicle; and a designation of the vehicle as a demonstrator, taxi, police car, rental vehicle or leased fleet vehicle, if the dealer knows.
  • to advertise a used car as a "demonstrator" unless the vehicle is of current or previous model year; was used exclusively by the dealership; and was used for demonstrator purposes only.
  • for a new or used car dealer to advertise that the dealer will pay a specific price for trade-in vehicles unless either the advertised price will be paid for all trade-in vehicles regardless of their condition or age, or the advertisement clearly and conspicuously discloses any conditions which trade-in vehicles must meet before such price will be paid.
  • for a new or used car dealer to use in its vehicle ads any format, layout, headline, chart, illustration or type size that fails to clearly designate which of the prices, finance terms, or other sale terms featured apply to each of the advertised motor vehicles.

Bait and Switch Advertising occurs when a seller advertises a desirable or in-demand item to lure shoppers and then tries to substitute (switch) to another, less desirable item. The hope is that once shoppers respond to the advertising and go to the store, they will buy a similar item if the advertised item isn't available. It is considered an unfair and deceptive practice. 

The regulation states that it is an unfair trade practice to advertise merchandise or a service for sale when the advertisement is not a bona fide offer to sell the advertised merchandise or service. In other words, if the exact item being advertised is not available for consumers to purchase, it cannot be advertised for sale.

In certain cases, even the failure to have available at all outlets listed in the advertisement a sufficient quantity of the advertised merchandise to meet reasonable anticipated demands, can be considered "bait and switch," unless the advertisement clearly, adequately, and specifically discloses that supply is limited and/or the merchandise is available only at designated outlets. See Sec. 42-110b-20 .

Comparison Price Advertising -- It is an unfair or deceptive act for a seller to make any price comparison (such as 25% Off, Two-for-One, Up to 70% off) in an advertisement:
  • based upon a price other than one at which the merchandise was either sold or offered for sale by the seller or a competitor, or will be sold or offered for sale by the seller in the future, in the regular course of business in the trade area in which the price comparison is made;
  • in which the consumer property or services materially differ in composition, grade or quality, style or design, model, name or brand, kind or variety, or service and performance characteristics, unless the general nature of the material differences is conspicuously disclosed in the advertisement with the price comparison; or
  • unless all the relevant price terms are conspicuously disclosed for any offer that requires the purchase of additional merchandise. For example, "Buy One Get One --  Higher Price Prevails" is allowable.
Competitors' Prices -- When advertising a price comparison based upon a competitor's price:
  • the competitor's price must be either that at which the competitor sold or advertised the merchandise or service within 90 days prior to the ad or 90 days prior to the date on which the completed advertising copy is submitted to the printer for publication. (Such submission date may not be more than eight weeks (56 days) from the ad's actual publication or distribution;
  • the competitor's price must be representative of prices at which the merchandise is typically sold or advertised for sale in the area and is not an isolated price occurence.
Guaranteed Refund Advertising: "Satisfaction or Your Money Back," "10 Day Free Trial," or similar representations are considered guarantees that the full purchase price will be refunded at the option of the buyer. If this guarantee is subject to any conditions or limitations whatsoever, the following terms must also be disclosed clearly and conspicuously in the ad:
  • The nature and extent of the guarantee. This includes the name of the product or part of the product that is guaranteed; the service or part of service that is guaranteed; the characteristics of the designated product or part that are covered by or excluded from the guarantee, the duration of the guarantee, and the requirements for claiming a refund under the guarantee
  • A statement of exactly what the guarantor promises to do under the guarantee.
  • The identity of the guarantor. The guarantor's identity should be clearly revealed in all advertising, as well as in any documents evidencing the guarantee.
  • "Lifetime" guarantees must identify the life to which the ad refers -- if it doesn't refer to the buyer or original user, the "lifetime" must specifically disclosed."  (For example, a new car alarm might be guaranteed "for the life of the vehicle.")
Misleading Advertising -- It is an unfair or deceptive act to:
  • Advertise the price of any merchandise as below cost, unless the price actually below the cost at which the advertiser/retailer bought the merchandise.
  • Advertise merchandise or service as free or discounted, reduced, or on sale if in order to get that price, the consumer must also buy other items or a service at a price that is higher than the actual regular price.
  • Misrepresent the owner, manufacturer, distributor, or source of merchandise or services, although a supplier may label merchandise received from others and sold by him with his own brand or trademark. 
  • Misrepresent the nature, characteristics, standard ingredients, uses, benefits, quantities or qualities of merchandise or services;
  • Misrepresent that merchandise is new or original when it is used, altered, deteriorated or repossessed; although a retailer may resell returned merchandise that is in original, undamaged condition;
  • Disparage another's merchandise, services, or business by false or misleading representation of fact.