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Denver online retailers caught in sweep over shady advertising

Posted at 5:13 PM, Dec 12, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-12 22:52:53-05

DENVER -- A growing number of online retailers in Denver are accused of using misleading advertising practices, according to Denver's chapter of the Better Business Bureau.

The organization completed a months-long "sweep" this month. It reviewed 260 individual businesses and generated 28 formal BBB advertising review cases.

Among the "most frequent and egregious violations" of the BBB's Code of Advertising are the use of guarantees and warranties without disclosing the details of those benefits, false "Made in the USA" claims and "limited time only" offers, and unsubstantiated claims of empirical research to justify a product's effectiveness.

According to the organization, the BBB received more than 300 formal complaints against Denver-based online retailers -- a 50-percent increase over complaints received in 2016.

It said online retailer complaints are now "outpacing those against roofing contractors, moving companies, and used car dealers."

Citing the U.S. Census Bureau, the BBB said online sales account for 10-percent of total U.S. retail sales as of mid-2018.

"Advertising is a huge component in the business world," Ann Mariano, the ad review coordinator at the BBB in Denver said. "Look at reviews. Look at descriptions. Make sure it matches up and definitely pay attention to the small print because that's where a lot of businesses hide limitations to their products."

Of the 28 formal advertising review cases the BBB launched, six businesses cooperated and modified or discontinued advertising concerns the BBB identified. Nine businesses were able to substantiate advertising claims and rebut the BBB. Thirteen businesses failed to comply and received ratings deductions accordingly.

According to the BBB, each of the businesses have received ample notice and communication about the advertising concerns. Mariano said businesses were notified of the sweep before the sweep began.

To view the businesses reviewed under the sweep, click here.