Avoid jargon

Any claims made should be in plain language and should be clear and unambiguous. You should avoid using jargon, such as technical or scientific language, or ‘trade terms’, without explaining what they mean if the average consumer is unlikely to be familiar with them. This could include terms such as ‘carbon neutral’ when making environmental claims, ‘endowment’ or ‘indemnity’ when selling insurance, or acronyms such as ‘ORC’ for on road costs when selling motor vehicles. Such jargon may confuse consumers who may make assumptions that aren't correct and be misled.

Using puffery

Exaggerations which are so obvious that they are unlikely to mislead anyone are known as ‘puffery’. Humorous and imaginative adverts often use this technique. Sometimes the statement is very clearly an exaggeration which would not mislead consumers. However, other statements are not so obvious and it can be hard for the average consumer to know whether it is a fact or puffery.

The Fair Trading Act allows some leeway when statements are clearly puffery. This is because most reasonable consumers are aware that some exaggeration occurs in advertising.

Be careful with exaggerations

Businesses should still take care when making 'puffery' claims, as even if a claim is a clear exaggeration, it may break the law if it causes consumers to be misled. Statements that appear to relate to facts rather than opinion, particularly about quality and price (such as that a product is ‘the fastest’ or ‘the most economical’) will break the law if they are not accurate. The more seemingly factual a claim is, the greater the risk it will breach the law if it is misleading or deceptive.

Example: A pie shop paints "Tastiest pies in New Zealand" on its shop window. This is unlikely to mislead consumers because it is presented as a matter of opinion. However, if the shop painted "Voted best pies in New Zealand", when they had not in fact been voted the best pies, this could mislead consumers.