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ACT Can a 'Fullstop' Make a Difference under Australian Consumer Law?

Discussion in 'Australian Consumer Law Forum' started by Flightrisk, 19 September 2015.

  1. Flightrisk

    Flightrisk Active Member

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    In an advertising slogan of a website, having a banner that reads "Profitable business. Guaranteed"
    (italic word is not the actual word used but very similar, so as not to indirectly identify the business)

    Is this misleading and would a reasonable person read that and think "Profitable business guaranteed"
    Or is the insertion of a 'fullstop' just meant that legally under Australian Consumer Law it means, here's two dictionary look-ups that mean nothing in the context of the product offered? In other words a marketing ploy?
     
  2. Tim W

    Tim W Lawyer

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    Bit difficult to comment on what the thing means, if you don't give us the actual words used?
     
  3. Flightrisk

    Flightrisk Active Member

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    Thankyou Tim, good information but, it doesn't really come close to answering the post. The reason I persist, is that the company that has the banner has threatened to sue me for defamation, because I posted a question on a forum (that this business advertises on) and asked if it was misleading? A simple question, but the company thought was malicious. I retracted the post and apologised for daring to ask, within 45 mins of the post, but they're still insisting on proceeding. It could be all bluff, but it'd be nice to know whether any reasonable person would consider the judicious use of a 'fullstop' can get them off the hook?
     
  4. Tim W

    Tim W Lawyer

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    Well, you haven't exactly asked an answerable question.
    Links and screen shots would help.
    At the moment, you're asking for an opinion about nothing.
     
  5. Flightrisk

    Flightrisk Active Member

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    I guess that's the conundrum? In your opinion, does "Profitable business. Guaranteed" mean nothing? but "Profitable business guaranteed" mean something? By something I mean, after reading the first, second or both text strings you could assume that this business is guaranteed as profitable? Or are you suggesting that despite the words profitable, guaranteed and business being used in a text string they are nothing but wall paper and no one should take any notice? This is after all a consumer thread. I'm a consumer, have read both text strings, what is the publishers goal in getting me to think?

    It could be similarly written by a food store as "Cut Price. Guaranteed" What does that mean to a consumer, how would the ACCC interpret that? I'm going to shop there cause they've guaranteed me they've cut prices? Am I being misled if I get to the shop and there's nothing on special? Remember the point of the post is the use of the 'fullstop'. As a lawyer would you advise a client that by simply inserting a 'fullstop' before Guaranteed it renders the implied intent worthless?
     
  6. Tim W

    Tim W Lawyer

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    You seem like someone who needs formal advice
    about the risk you face as a defendant in a defamation action.
     
  7. Flightrisk

    Flightrisk Active Member

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    Yeah, not getting much help here! Forget my situation with the defamation. I'm calling upon anyone, with consumer law expertise, for an opinion!.

    Does isolating the word "Guaranteed." after any other sentence mean anything, in regard to the preceding statement?

    It's a simple question.

    Another example: "You don't know what you're talking about. Guaranteed"

    In consumer law, does that mean, "You don't know what you're talking about"

    OR does it mean, "It's guaranteed, that you don't know what you're talking about"

    Surely someone can offer a learned opinion?
     
  8. Flightrisk

    Flightrisk Active Member

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    In the absence of any experts, I'm going to have a crack at answering my own question, and maybe some of the readers wish to comment and/or learn from it, or challenge my interpretation?
    When we read a sentence we usually have to draw from experience to understand its proposition/meaning. If I say, "The sky is blue"...unless as a child it was drummed into you by your parents pointing at the colour blue and banging on in your ear, "Blue", "Blue"...you wouldn't understand the meaning? Therefore a proposition only has meaning if verifiable, based on life's experiences.

    Back to my original query made up of a sentence and a word. "Profitable business. Guaranteed". Its a business slogan of XYZ Pty Ltd that markets businesses for sale on a website. Take the first sentence "Profitable business". Our mind attempts to verify it drawing on past experience or you look up a dictionary. Profitable means more money comes in than goes out. Business is a commercial activity of buying and selling. Our mind tries to put the two words together and come up with an answer: "A commercial activity that makes more money than it spends". Nearly there methinks...but hang on, what business are we talking about here? XYZ Pty Ltd or the business it's currently marketing? Can't be verified as there's no qualification present? So the words mean NOTHING as they specifically relate to who knows what business?

    So we've got a text string that means NOTHING end of sentence, followed by the word Guaranteed fullstop. Concatenate the two, and you get "NOTHING verifiable & Guaranteed" = NOTHING! It's meaningless in a legal sense probably, but to the untrained eye it can mean any number of other things. It's a smoke and mirrors marketing trick in my opinion, that plays on peoples lack of verifiable knowledge. If the fullstop wasn't there, would it make any difference? The meaning would be, "NOTHING verifiable guaranteed" now = NOTHING

    A: The fullstop is of no consequence, it's the premise of the sentence and word that is unspecified, leaving the consumer to think they know what it means to their own detriment.
     
  9. Rod

    Rod Well-Known Member

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    Without the exact context of the slogan no-one can give you an informed opinion. Includes placement of banner ad and what is around it.

    Instead of getting narky with people, providing more information would have been the better way to approach your problem.

    Based on your description of events it is unlikely the other business has much of a case against you. Having the post up for only 45 mins in your favour.
     
  10. Flightrisk

    Flightrisk Active Member

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    Thanks Rod and apologies to any I may have offended. Under a fair bit of stress. I can't really provide more details as that would be identifying the source. A catch22. These people are highly litigant, always threatening to sue anyone that dares question or challenge anything they put up.

    It's a unique forum marketing ploy now. The advertisers (pty ltd) get their Directors to post as forum members and respond to people's posts with advice but steer them towards their product succinctly. You challenge anything these privileged posters say and bang you're moderated or banned.

    Complaints to the publishers gets you nowhere. Complaints to the ACCC get you nowhere either because I'm talking about the gambling industry. Gamblers deserve what they get, is their policy it seems, and they offer you a referral to Lifeline or Beyond Blue!

    It's a sorry state of affairs, free speech, non malicious.
     

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