DIAL-AROUND AND OTHER LONG DISTANCE SERVICES
SAMPLE OF MISREPRESENTATIONS AND DECEPTIONS
EXAMPLE # 1 - All Day, All Night?: The headline of a direct mail ad for a dial-around service reads, "All day. All night. All calls. 10¢ a minute." In fact, the rate is applicable only for state-to-state calls after 7:00 p.m. and on weekends. Even an otherwise prominent disclosure to that effect will likely not be sufficient considering that the disclosure directly contradicts the express, and false, representations in the headline.
EXAMPLE #2 - Minimum Charges: An advertisement conveys the message that long-distance calls cost 10¢ a minute. In fact, all calls are subject to a 50¢ minimum charge. Given that reasonable consumers would likely conclude from the "10¢ a minute" representation that a one-minute call would cost 10¢, and would not expect there to be a substantial additional charge, the advertiser's failure to clearly and conspicuously disclose the minimum fee in the ad would likely be deceptive.
EXAMPLE #3 - Monthly Fees: An advertisement says that long-distance calls cost 10¢ a minute. In fact, that rate is only available if customers pay a $5.95 monthly fee. Because the imposition of the monthly fee would significantly increase the consumer's per-minute charge, the advertiser's failure to clearly and conspicuously disclose the monthly fee in the ad would likely be deceptive.
EXAMPLE #4 - Cost After Initial Promoted Calling Period: A company advertises "all calls up to 20 minutes for only $1.00," but charges 10¢ for each additional minute. Consumers are likely to be misled by the affirmative claim in the absence of a disclosure about the significantly higher rate after 20 minutes. Because many consumers will make calls that last longer than 20 minutes, the cost of each minute beyond the first 20 minutes' duration of a call is information that likely would be material to consumers considering whether to use the service. Thus, the advertiser's failure to clearly and conspicuously disclose in the ad the per-minute rate for calls longer than the initial calling period would likely be deceptive.
EXAMPLE #5 - Time Restrictions: A company's advertisements prominently feature the phrase "10¢ a minute." In fact, the 10¢ a minute rate is good only between 7:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. Consumers are likely to view this time limitation as a significant restriction on the availability of the advertised 10¢ a minute rate. The advertiser's failure to clearly and conspicuously disclose the limited hours in the ad would likely be deceptive.
EXAMPLE #6 - Promotional Rates: A company's advertisements prominently feature the phrase "5¢ a minute." Peel-off stickers featuring the "5¢ a minute" offer accompany the advertisement. In fact, the 5¢ a minute rate is a special promotional offer good only for 60 days. Consumers are likely to view the limited duration of the 5¢ a minute rate as a significant qualification. The advertiser's failure to disclose clearly and conspicuously this limitation in the ad would likely be deceptive. Furthermore, in this instance, the use of peel-off stickers advertising the 5¢ a minute rate without adequate disclosure of the limited duration of the offer would likely be deceptive because the stickers would remain on consumers' telephones long after the promotional rate had expired.
EXAMPLE #7 - Geographic Restrictions: A company advertises a "10¢ a minute" rate. In fact, that rate is good only for state-to-state calls, and in-state calls may be charged at a significantly higher rate. The failure to clearly and conspicuously disclose in the ad, for example, that "in state rates may be higher," would likely be deceptive.
EXAMPLE #8 - "Basic Rates": A company offers consumers a directory assistance service for 99¢. According to the television ad, callers who use this service can be connected to the requested number at no additional charge. In fact, consumers who opt to be connected to the requested number are connected via the advertiser's network and are billed at the advertiser's more expensive per-minute rates. This information is disclosed only by a superscript reading "basic rates apply." Reasonable consumers would expect to pay the promoted 99¢ charge, but would not likely expect to pay a charge greater than the amount their selected long-distance carrier would charge for a call to the requested number. Because the consumer will be charged a rate higher than the consumer's presubscribed rate, use of the term "basic rates apply," even if clearly and conspicuously disclosed, would not likely be sufficient to avoid deception. The advertiser's failure to disclose that the consumer will be charged a rate higher than the consumer's presubscribed rate would likely be deceptive.
EXAMPLE #9 - Comparative Price Claims: In an advertisement in a daily newspaper, an advertiser conveys the message that its rates are the lowest, using a chart that compares its per-minute rate to the rates offered by two competitors. The stated rate of one of the competitors is three months old, and the stated rate of the other is eight months old. By representing the competitors' rates, the advertiser is implying that those rates are reasonably current. If the information upon which the ad is based is outdated and the rates have changed materially, the ad would likely be deceptive.
EXAMPLE #10 - Use of Toll-Free Numbers: A television advertisement for a long-distance calling plan prominently features the phrase "10¢ a minute" as a graphic and in the narration read by the spokesperson. The ad gives a toll-free number and tells consumers "call now to switch." In fact, the 10¢ a minute rate is good only between 7:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. The inclusion of a superscript that reads "call for restrictions" would not likely be effective to qualify the claim.