Truth in Advertizing

Lars Poulsen - 2000-05-27

I am sitting here, going through my - mostly junk - mail on a Saturday afternoon, getting ready to balance my checkbook and pay some bills, and I am getting all riled up by all the lies I have to read. Can anyone explain to me, why a businessperson thinks that I want to do business with someone who lies to me? Why the management of a non-profit foundation thinks that I want to give money to someone who is not trustworthy? Or have we just gotten so used to these lies that neither the ones telling the lies nor most of the ones being lied to even notice it any longer?

I want the lies to stop now, and I am going to ask my legislators what can be done about it. Here are some examples of the lies I am referring to:

Can we all agree that these are examples of less-than-truthful solicitations? Can we stop them?

I want to get back to a world where "free offer" means it is available at no cost. I want to see a world where the merchant who advertizes goods for a specific price has to give me the goods if I give him that amount of money. I want a requirement that when a price is advertized to a consumer, it must include sales taxes, unavoidable shipping costs and not be augmented by murky "handling fees".

Some will claim that requiring merchants to speak the truth is an abridgement of the freedom of speech guaranteed by the first amendment to the US constitution. I say that commercial speech is different from religious and political speech, and that it is not only reasonable but necessary to hold commercial speech to an objective standard of truth, at least when it addresses matter for which such a truth is readily discernible.


Patrick Combs tells the story of depositing a junk mail check for $95,035.35 into his bank account.

If enough people did this, the junk checks would come to a halt!!

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