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For example, the statement "Two out of three doctors recommend ABC Pain Reliever" must be supported by a reliable survey to that effect.If the ad isn't specific, the FTC looks at several factors to determine what level of proof is necessary, including what experts in the field think is needed to support the claim.Additional laws apply to ads for specialized products like consumer leases, credit, 900 telephone numbers, and products sold through mail order or telephone sales.

Although the FTC cannot intervene in an individual dispute between two companies, the agency relies on many sources - including complaints from consumers and competitors - to find out about ads that may be deceptive.

To file a complaint against a competitor who you believe has engaged in false advertising, contact: Federal Trade Commission Consumer Response Center600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NWWashington, DC 20580Toll-free 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357)Online Complaint Form No. Matters become public only after the FTC reaches a settlement with a company or files a lawsuit.

However, you can be assured that complaints received from companies alleging that competitors are advertising deceptively are reviewed carefully.

The FTC can tell you if it has already taken formal action (e.g., filed or settled a lawsuit) against a particular company or against similar kinds of advertisements or products.

Until 1996, there was a voluntary policy within the distilled spirits industry not to advertise on television.

Many broadcasters still do not accept ads for distilled spirits.

But the FTC cannot disclose whether an investigation is going on.

To find out if a company or product has been the subject of a recent FTC action, search the FTC's website (gov). In addition to the advertiser, the advertising agency also may be held legally responsible for misleading claims in ads.

Advertising agencies have a duty to make an independent check on the information used to substantiate ad claims.

They may not rely on an advertiser's assurance that the claims are substantiated.

The FTC's Small Business Compliance Assistance Policy Statement describes other forms of assistance available to small businesses to help them comply with truth-in-advertising laws.

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