Think You’re Saving Money When You See “List Price” or “MSRP?” Think Again

A coworker of mine sent this story my way a couple days back.  As it turns out, not a moment too soon; I’ve been seeing more and more references to List prices, MSRP, Suggested Retail Prices and the like quite a bit lately.  Generally speaking, there’s almost always a catch to them, and the catch is this: these prices are often totally made up.

BBB’s Code of Advertising actually covers these types of advertising statements pretty specifically.  The guideline itself reads:

“List price,” “manufacturer’s list price,” “reference price,” “suggested retail price,” and similar terms have been used deceptively to state or imply a saving which was not, in fact, the case. A list price may be advertised as a comparative to the advertised sales price only to the extent that it is the actual selling price currently charged by the advertiser or by representative principal retailers in the market area where the claim is made.

Such a comparison should be substantiated by the advertiser immediately prior to making any advertised comparison.

Quick capsule summary: advertisers are free to use these terms.  Here’s the thing, though: the prices have to be real, and the savings either implied or expressly stated by the comparison to the higher price has to be real, too.

While this is a common issue for BBB’s to contact businesses about, I strongly suspect it’s something we’re likely to pursue more often in the future, simply because it seems to be appearing more and more in the marketplace at large.

If you see something you think might be suspect, feel free to send it our way at or give us a call about problem advertising at 513-421-3015.

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About Trisha Sefakis

I started at BBB|Cincinnati in 2004 as the Database Coordinator, I am now the Manager of Digital Media.