Consumers may be fooled by deceptive labels

March 18, 2013 11:30:07 AM PDT
When was the last time you bought something and it wasn't what you thought it was going to be?

Judging from all the complaints Consumer Reports receives, it probably wasn't that long ago.

Subway has long promoted its footlong sandwiches. So when customers caught the company serving shorter sandwiches, they took their complaints to Facebook, garnering media attention.

The Colbert Report's Stephen Colbert was among those who spoke out.

"We have been five-dollar footwronged!" Colbert had said at the time.

Subway has since issued the following statement:

"We have redoubled our efforts to ensure consistency and correct length in every sandwich we serve."

Consumer Reports found other products that disappointed customers, too.

The Allergy Luxe Premium Bed Bug Mattress Protector boasts that it provides "luxurious fabric protection against bed bugs, dust mites & allergens."

Consumer Reports learned this was not the case.

"If you turn the package over and read the fine print at the bottom, it says 'the manufacturer makes no claim that this product will prevent or inhibit human exposure to insects, allergens, mold or other microbial matter,'" said Tod Marks, Consumer Reports.

The packaging for the Cuddly Sherpa Throw shows cute lambs. But upon closer examination, the label says it is made from "100% polyester."

Looking for products that are made in America can be confusing as well.

"Just because you see a symbol like an American flag doesn't mean it was American-made at all," said Marks. The American Glove Company says "We Glove The USA." But the label says otherwise; it's made in Vietnam.

One would assume the dish towels made by American Mills were also manufactured in the U.S. They're actually made in China.

Unfortunately, confusing words and images aren't necessarily forbidden by the Federal Trade Commission, which is responsible for monitoring deceptive product claims.

"What would a reasonable consumer think, they ask. And even there it's not clear cut," said Marks.

Reading labels closely is a good habit to get into. Consumer Reports says if you believe you've been mislead about a product, complain to the manufacturer directly. You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.consumer.ftc.gov.


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