According to a new study commissioned by the Federal Trade Commission and released on June 29, 2012, when marketers use the phrase “up to” in claims about their products, consumers are likely to believe that they will achieve the maximum “up to” results.
The agency commissioned the study after settling charges in February with five companies that made deceptive energy efficiency and cost savings claims about replacement windows. The study describes what a test group of consumers thought about ads that claimed to provide “UP TO 47% [savings] on heating and cooling bills.” The results indicated that almost half of the respondents (48.2%) expected to save about 47% on their heating and cooling bills.
In a press release about the study, the FTC said that the finding “reinforces [the agency’s] view that advertisers using these claims should be able to substantiate that consumers are likely to achieve the maximum results promised under normal circumstances.”
Mary Engle, associate director of advertising practices for the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection Division, told Adweek, “Before advertisers may have thought that if one person got the maximum result, they could make the claim. Our study suggests 50 percent or more of users should get that result.”
To read the FTC’s report, click here.
Why it matters:The FTC expects advertisers to substantiate their “up to” marketing claims at the maximum results promised. The guidance offered by this recent report is more specific than the agency’s “up to” claim definition of an “appreciable number of consumers realizing the maximum advertising benefit a substantial amount of time.” This is part of a regulatory trend, as the NAD has also provided more specific guidance on “up to” claims in recent decisions.