Fair trading laws impose quite substantial penalties on people found to be in breach of those laws. It is easy for an unhappy customer or client to file a complaint with a fair trading commission and if more than one complaint is received, start a possible chain of investigation of all your business practices.
The Australian legislation sets out a lot of the rules that businesses have to comply with in the negative, as in “a person must not, in trade or commerce, in connection with…” Since I prefer to state the positive of what you can and should be doing, that’s the way we’ll look at it now.
First things first – you want to advertise your services in a way that entices hordes of eager customers to your door. Direct response advertising is all about triggering the emotions of your buyers by identifying their wants and giving them all the reasons they need to overcome any hesitancy to buy. In doing so you must be careful how you describe your goods and services. Here are some of the things you need to be aware of when describing your services. Make sure:
- Your services are of the particular standard, quality, value, history etc that you claim them to be.
- Your services have actually been used or bought by the people that you claim have used or bought them. (ie, don’t claim that you gave Ricky Ponting some coaching around the last cricket test if you didn’t!)
- If you claim to have sponsorship, approval or benefits to your services, the claims are true.
- You state the price clearly and in a way that cannot confuse people
- You can provide what you say you can, when you say you can
- If you claim your knowledge, experience or qualifications came from someone or somewhere that they actually did
- You realistically state the need for a particular good or service
- If you offer a condition, warranty, guarantee, right or remedy, you actually meet that commitment
- You make claims that you can realistically substantiate
Consider that this long list of requirements has been developed over the years and often in response to the activities of people whose business practices were considered to be unacceptable. I’ve left out a few dealing more with manufactured products and concentrated mainly on those dealing with services.
What consumer protection law does is identify all the tricky things that business people have done in the past, and attempts to identify some of the tricky things they might do in the future, to pry people away from their hard earned money. You might imagine that consumer protection law is written with the premise that people only purchase what they need, and wouldn’t otherwise spend their money, and it certainly does give that impression. How wrong, you know and I know that we buy what we believe we really want at the time.