Are you in compliance with legal and ethical advertising?
By Tom Delaney
We all know it is important to differentiate ourselves from our competitors, but there are limits and also federal rules involved in how we do so. For example, you would not be in compliance if you use information found on the Internet, but that has not been peer reviewed or scientifically proven, to promote one service or product over another. Comparing “natural” or “organic” fertilizers and pest control products over traditional products is one of the areas where many legal and ethical violations in lawn care advertising occur. It has been some time since the industry has been under the microscope for its advertising practices, and, to keep it that way, it’s again time to take a look at the basic guidelines.
Familiarizing (or re-familiarizing) yourself with the “Advertising Guidelines for Lawn Care Products and Services,” developed by PLANET in cooperation with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), would be a great place to begin to determine whether or not your advertising is in compliance. This document can be found online at LandcareNetwork.org under the Government Affairs tab. Select Industry Tools, then Lawn and Landscape Issues Communication Toolkit, and then Lawn and Landscape Communication Toolkit Resources from the shaded Toolkit Quick Links box. While these are not laws, they do provide peer-reviewed guidelines to good practices.
Throughout the guidelines, reference is made to another resource, PLANET’s consumer information brochure, titled “What You Should know About Lawn Care Products and Services.” This brochure contains great information for you to share with your clients. For example, it details the difference between “organic” and “natural” with regard to lawn care products.
You may also want to go to the ftc.gov site to brush up on what it considers fair advertising. The agency’s Bureau of Consumer Protection Business Center has a pretty extensive list of FAQs (Advertising FAQs: A Guide for Small Business) that are also very helpful. If you think the FTC will never find you or come to your location, consider that your state’s attorney general is the enforcer under the state or “little” FTC act.
Lets all compete on the merits of our companies offerings and not on false or misleading statements about competitors and their services. Competition is good for the industry and the consumer. Let’s just do it in a legal, fair, and ethical manner that helps the entire industry.
Tom Delaney is director of government affairs at the Professional Landcare Network (PLANET). For more information, visit www.landcarenetwork.org