News: Sprint Settles Deceptive Ad Case with NYC

The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs announced yesterday that it settled a lawsuit it had filed against Sprint and Nextel over misleading advertising of cellphone plans. Consumer Affairs alleged that Sprint used fine print footnotes to change the meaning of the primary claims being made by the advertisement.  In particular, while Sprint boldly advertised “All incoming calls are free”, the mouse print indicated there was either a 10 cent per minute charge or a monthly fee associated with the service.  With respect to another claim, “Nationwide long distance included. Every minute, every day,” the fine print indicated certain circumstances when a 25 cent per minute long distance charge would apply.

Sprint Nextel will pay the city $295,000 to settle the case.  In its press release, Sprint denied breaking any NYC advertising laws and said, “DCA never contested the truthfulness of the Sprint or Nextel advertisements…”

Hmm.  It looks like Sprint’s press release may have been missing an asterisk and footnote about how it defines the word “truthfulness”.

Microsoft: Fingerprint Reader Replaces Passwords*

Fingerprint reader smallMicrosoft has a fingerprint reader that will let you enter password protected sites or accomplish logins without the need for entering your username and password.  Just touch your finger to the device, and you’re in.  It is a time saver, and presumably offers extra security protection.  Or does it?

*MOUSE PRINT: “The fingerprint reader is not a security feature and is intended to be used for convenience only.” [Online “Getting Started” manual,, April 10, 2006]

The actual disclaimer adds more cautions:

Fingerprint disclaimer

Who would have expected that a fingerprint reader should not be used for security purposes?  At least the warning was disclosed.

Dell: Unbelievable Deals*

Dell laptop deal

Dell widely advertised “10 Days of Deals”, with “unbelievable savings.” Today’s deal is on a Dell Inspiron E1505 notebook for only $633. A great price for a loaded laptop. All you have to do is enter the special coupon code when you checkout, and another $414 will be deducted from the price. Trouble is, their system won’t accept the coupon and therefore the real price is over $1000. Dell’s salespeople say this was a “marketing error,” and they can’t honor the price.

*MOUSE PRINT: “Dell cannot be responsible for pricing or other errors, and reserves the right to cancel orders arising from such errors.” [Dell website, April 2, 2006]

If Dell is not responsible for the prices they advertise, who is?