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December 12, 2016

BBB’s National Advertising Division Sides with Mouse Print* and Against Lowe’s on Misleading Ads

Filed under: Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:42 am

Several months ago, we told you the story of a Lowe’s TV commercial that promised “20% off major appliances $396 and up,” but the hard-to-read fine print excluded virtually all the major brands: “Whirlpool, Maytag, KitchenAid, Amana, GE, LG, Samsung, Frigidaire, Electrolux and Bosch brands limited to a maximum 10% discount, unless otherwise shown.”

Outrageous, right? After Mouse Print* pointed out the deceptive nature of this advertisement, the company pulled the ad and said it was an error. Lowe’s tried to correct the ad merely by adding the words “up to” — saying “Up to 20% off major appliances $396 and up.” But, they kept the same disclaimer indicating that almost nothing was 20% off.

Lowe's revised ad

Our trusty mouse was infuriated. He filed a complaint with the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, which reviews problematic advertising usually at the behest of an aggrieved competitor.

Last week, the NAD rendered a decision in the case calling upon Lowe’s to discontinue their “up to 20% off” savings claims in future advertising unless a substantial amount of their inventory is at least 20% off, and any exceptions are clearly and conspicuously disclosed (unlike the inconspicuous disclosure used in the commercial).

Here is their press release announcing the decision and this is the full decision.

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  1. Way to go, Edgar! I wish there were more consumer advocates like you.

    Comment by HMC — December 12, 2016 @ 7:48 am
  2. How does the NAD work? I was quite surprised to read the summary and see how “soft” the findings were. While it spelled out specific guidelines to follow, it did not “test” these guidelines as it relates to Lowe’s and as a result did not truly accuse Lowe’s of doing anything wrong. Thus, Lowe’s is able to pull the ad without having to admit any wrongdoing and making this seem more like a misunderstanding than truly deceptive advertising. If Lowe’s had resisted, would the NAD had gone further with their accusations and evidence, or is this “slap on the wrist mentality” how they always operate?

    Edgar replies: Joe, as I understand it, if an advertiser balks at an NAD decision, they can bump it up to the National Advertising Review Board or file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. If any NAD folks are reading this, I hope they will correct me or chime in with the additional steps they can take.

    Comment by Joe — December 12, 2016 @ 9:06 am
  3. We are thankful for what you do, but if the only penalty these companies ever get is to “do better” in the future, it will never stop.

    Comment by Lisa — December 12, 2016 @ 9:26 am
  4. Well done, Edgar. You have provided all consumers another vital service in exposing this. Consumers are always free to vote with their wallets, and THAT is the best outcome.

    Edgar replies: Marty, thanks to you and others for the very kind words.

    Comment by Marty — December 12, 2016 @ 10:05 am
  5. Well HMC we do not have enough websites online like this one that will blast the crap out of companies for bad consumer practices. This is news that has to be reported more often on a national basis.

    Comment by richard — December 12, 2016 @ 12:03 pm
  6. I am hoping that NAD has significant power to convince the FTC or other government organizations to reprimand Lowe’s if they continue this deceptive advertising.

    Comment by Wayne R — December 12, 2016 @ 8:27 pm
  7. Edgar, you are tireless! Thanks for all you do to keep us informed!

    Comment by Sko Hayes — December 17, 2016 @ 8:07 am
  8. Thank you Edgar. We are lucky to have you especially in our state. There is so much faulty and deceptive advertising.

    Comment by Nancy Sing — December 19, 2016 @ 6:53 am

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