A consumer marketplace is any place, whether online or in person, that sells products or services for the general consumer, rather than for resale by a business. Consumer markets can target their products or advertising toward certain groups by age, gender, location, and nationality. The consumer marketplace consists of many different sellers which promotes competition and allows consumers to get the best price.
- Advertising regulations apply to television, print, radio, and commercial email.
- Federal law requires that advertisements are truthful, non-deceptive, fair, and have evidence to back up their advertising claim.
- Advertisements must clearly and conspicuously declare disclaimers.
- If the company promises a refund in their advertisement, they must make them.
- The Federal Trace Commission promulgates rules and regulations for national advertisements and states have authority to regulate local advertisements.
- The CAN-SPAM act regulates commercial emails, whether to customers or business to business email. Commercial emails must give the recipient the right to stop the emails, and must provide details of the penalties for violating the act.
- The email may not contain false or misleading header information.
- It may not use deceptive subject lines.
- It must identify the email as an advertisement and the location of the company.
- It must identify how to opt out of future emails and honor the opt-outs.
- The Mail, Internet, or Telephone Order Rule regulates advertisements that state or imply they can ship within a certain time.
- Companies must state their time period or ship within 30 days.
- Advertising directed to children under the age of 12 is regulated by the Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU).
- CARU directs advertisements to set reasonable expectations for a child’s mentality, promote positive role models, and aim to be educational and promote positive behavior.
- Any disclosures or disclaimers should be understandable to the child and using vocabulary that a reasonable child would understand. Visual disclaimers are encouraged.
- The advertisement must state that a child must obtain a parent’s permission to call if it involves a telephone number.
- Money that is put on a gift card cannot expire for at least five years from when the money was put on the card or when the card was reloaded. If the gift card has an expiration date that is shorter than this period, the money can be transferred to a new card at no additional cost.
- Some gift cards charge fees if they remain unused. A gift card cannot charge a fee for inactivity during the first year. After that, the fee can only be charged once a month.
- Fees may be charged for purchasing the gift card or replacing a lost or stolen gift card.
- The expiration date and fees that could be charged must be printed on the card or on the packaging of the card.
- Avoid buying gift cards from online auction sites as they may be counterfeit.
- Some retailers will not replace a lost or stolen card.
- Inspect the card’s sticker that covers the PIN to avoid having any money that is put on the card stolen by someone who copied the card’s ID number and PIN.
- If possible, replace the security code on the card immediately after purchase.
- Buy gift cards online directly from the retailor or provider if possible, especially if the gift card will have a high balance. Gift cards bought online are harder to access.
- If a company goes bankrupt, the gift card may become useless. If this occurs call the company. They may honor the gift card or another company may honor the card on the bankrupt company’s behalf.
Product Safety Issues
- The Consumer Product Safety Commission is a federal agency established by the Consumer Product Safety Act to protect the public from dangerous consumer products.
- Saferproducts.gov is the site set up by the Consumer Product Safety Commission for people to submit reports about a product safety issue and to look up information about possible issues with a product.
- Manufacturers or importers of the product are notified that someone has submitted a report and they are given the opportunity to comment.
- Consumers may look up possible recall notices about a product they bought or are about to buy.