FTC redefines “up to” for advertisers

Federal consumer officials are warning advertisers about the use of the phrase “up to” in any ads because shoppers are mostly confused or misled by the language.

According to a report from AdWeek.com, the Federal Trade Commission has issued new guidelines for use of the phrase “up to” in future advertisements because a majority of consumers believe it means they’ll most likely receive the number to which “up to” refers.

For instance, a product or service may promote itself as offering “up to 47 percent savings” over a competitor. Even though that really means a consumer should expect to receive anywhere from 1 to 47 percent savings, most consumers believe they’ll receive close to 47 percent or more, more often than not.

“Before advertisers may have thought that if one person got the maximum result, they could make the claim. Our study suggests 50 percent or more of users should get that result,” Mary Engle, associate director of advertising practices for the FTC’s bureau of consumer protection division, said in a statement.

In the new guidelines, the FTC defines the phrase “up to” to mean: “appreciable number of consumers realizing the maximum advertising benefit a substantial amount of time.” The FTC believes that advertisers have been using “up to” to their advantage, using single instances of larger savings and the figure to use in those claims. The new language urges advertisers to pick the percentage or figure which indicates the expected savings and leave instances of more savings as rarities.