Code of Advertising


These basic advertising standards are issued for the guidance of advertisers, advertising agencies and advertising media. It is impossible to cover fully the wide variety of advertising practices by specific standards in a code such as this, which is designed to apply to the offering of all goods and services in all forms of media.  

Each section of the BBB Code of Advertising is summarized here to help you select the parts of the Code that apply to your specific situations.  Please click at the end of the paragraph to access the entire section in detail.

1.      Basic Principles of the Code
Advertisements should be truthful, sincere offers to sell.  Advertisers have a responsibility to have substantiation for all claims made and should be able to provide that substantiation upon request.  All advertising that may mislead or deceive consumers should be avoided. Click here for specifics.

2.     Comparative Price, Value and Savings Claims
When comparing prices to one’s own former selling price, current price of others, list prices, wholesale prices, or  to items which are imperfect, it is important to make sure that consumers have all the necessary information to make an informed purchase.  In addition, when offering a price match guarantee, the offer should be made in good faith, include all necessary information to take advantage of it and not place an unreasonable burden on the consumer who wants to take advantage of the offer.  Click here for specifics.

3.     Free
Use of the word free includes a requirement, among others, that the “free” item actually is free. When offered with the purchase of another item, the free item should not be paid for by an increase in the regular price of the other item.  Click here for specifics.

4.     Trade-in Allowances
If an advertiser  offers to accept a trade-in when  a consumer purchases an item, the advertiser  must disclose  all terms for the offer clearly and conspicuously. Click here for specifics.

5.     Credit
Offering credit to consumers comes with numerous requirements which must be met.  In addition, if promising “easy credit,” or “guaranteed financing” or like terms, the consumer should receive what is promised. Click here for specifics.

6.     Extra Charges
To avoid confusion,  the existence  of any  extra charges (such as delivery, assembly, postage and handling, etc.) should be clearly and conspicuously disclosed in an advertisement in immediate conjunction with the price.  Click here for specifics.

7.     Negative Option Plans, Continuity Plans and Automatic Shipments
Advertisements for a product or service that include an offer to sell consumers additional goods or services under a negative option should disclose all material terms of the negative option. Advertisers should avoid making vague or unnecessarily long disclosures that might include contradictory language.  Click here for specifics. 

 8.    Bait Advertising and Selling
A “bait” offer is one where the advertiser does not intend to sell the product, but instead to lure the consumer  in to switch them to another product, usually at a higher price.  Advertisers should avoid  such offers. Click here for specifics.

9.     Warranties or Guarantees
When using the term “warranty” or “guarantee” the advertiser should clearly and conspicuously include a statement that the complete details of the warranty can be seen prior to the sale which could include putting it on the seller’s website. Advertisers should disclose any material limitations on a "satisfaction guarantee" or "money back guarantee" and define, for consumers, the meaning of claims such as "lifetime guarantee."  Click here for specifics.

10. Layout and Illustrations
The illustrations and overall layout of advertising should enhance the consumer's understanding of the offers and accurately represent the featured products and services.  Click here for specifics.

11. Asterisks
Asterisks can be used to provide additional information about the product or service. However, they should not be used to contradict or change the meaning of the original claim.  Click here for specifics.

12.  Abbreviations
Only commonly known abbreviations should be used in advertising.  Click here for specifics.

13. Use or Condition Disclosures
Terms including “used,” “secondhand,” “rebuilt,” “reconditioned,” “as-is,” etc. have specific meaning.    Advertisers should use them only in those circumstances and with appropriate disclosures.  Click here for specifics.

14. Superiority Claims – Comparatives – Disparagement
Deceptively or falsely disparaging advertising of a competitor’s products or services must not be used.  Comparisons should fairly reflect all aspects of the products or services equally.  Click here for specifics.

15. Objective Superlative Claims
Claims that relate to tangible qualities and performance values of a product or service can be used when the advertiser has substantiation. An example of a claim requiring substantiation would be  "#1 car sales in the city." Click here for specifics.

16. Subjective Claims – Puffery
Expressions of opinion or intangible qualities of a product or service do not need to be substantiated.  Such claims include “we try harder” or “best food in the world.” Click here for specifics.

17. Testimonials and Endorsements
Advertisers should ensure that testimonials and endorsement are not misleading and represent the current opinion of the endorser.  A consumer endorser’s experience should reflect what users generally achieve, unless there is a clear and conspicuous disclosure of what the expected results will be.   Advertisers should not include claims in testimonials that they themselves cannot make and support.  Click here for specifics.

18. Rebate
Rebates are payments of money after the sale.  Advertisers should clearly and conspicuously state the before-rebate  cost as well as the amount of the rebate and include key terms that consumers need to know.  Click here for specifics.

19. Business Name or Trade Style
Business names or trade styles should not contain words that would mislead the public.   Words like “factory” or “wholesaler” should only be used under appropriate circumstances.  Click here for specifics.

20. Contests and Games of Chance or Skill
Advertisers should publish clear, complete and concise contest rules and provide competent impartial judges to determine the winners.  Contests that include the three elements of prize, chance and consideration (payment) are considered lotteries in violation of state and federal laws.  Canadian law contains similar prohibitions. Click here for specifics.

21. Claimed Results
Claims relating to performance and results should be backed up by reliable evidence.  Click here for specifics.

22. Unassembled Products
Advertisers should disclose when merchandise requires partial or complete assembly by the consumer, e.g., "unassembled," "partial assembly required." Click here for specifics.

23. Environmental Benefit Claims
Advertisers should avoid broad, unqualified environmental claims such as “green,” or “eco-friendly.”  Other claims such as “degradable,” “recycled,” and “non-toxic,” should only be used when substantiated and properly qualified.  Environmental Certifications and seals of approval may be used if properly issued.  Additional disclosures are needed if not issued by an independent third-party.  Click here for specifics.  

24. “Made in USA” Claims
"Made in USA," and similar terms used to describe the origin of a product must be truthful and substantiated.   In general, all or virtually all of the product must be made in the USA.    Qualified “Made in USA” claims can made be under certain circumstances and with appropriate disclosures.  Click here for specifics.

25.  “Product of Canada” and “Made in Canada” Claims
“Product of Canada," "Made in Canada" and similar terms used to describe the origin of a product must be truthful and substantiated.    To make "Product of Canada” claims, virtually all of the product must be made in Canada.  Where goods are partially made in Canada, “Made in Canada” claims can be made if appropriately qualified.  Click here for specifics.