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Anyone who’s merely dabbled in the Internet Marketing niche has seen countless product ads like this:

IM product ad

And then, to spice things up, alleged added value is included in the form of bonuses like this:

Bonus products

Does anyone really believe there are customers who actually paid those prices?

If so, they’re probably still writing letters to Santa, too.

The hard fact remains that e-commerce is the Wild West of retail. For example, this practice is still legal:

Finally, though, deceptions such as these are beginning to face legal scrutiny.

Here’s an example:

Le Creuset skillet on Amazon

Check the price at Le Creuset:

Le Creuset skillet

And here’s the way the skillet is listed on other sites:

  • Williams-Sonoma.com has it at $285, but customers can buy it for $200.
  • AllModern.com puts the list price at $250, but it’s ‘on sale’ for $200.
  • CutleryandMore.com also posts it at $285, but — surprise! — it can be had for $200.

Obviously, Le Creuset doesn’t care. It’s getting the asking price it wants for its product.

The California courts don’t think this is very funny. Overstock.com was recently found liable in a lower court for using misleading reference prices to exaggerate potential customer savings and fined $6.8million, twice the size of the next-largest penalty for false advertising in California.

Now, the Federal Trade Commission is getting into the act. Here’s how its regulations state the standard:

To the extent that list or suggested retail prices do not in fact correspond to prices at which a substantial number of sales of the article in question are made, the advertisement of a reduction may mislead the consumer.

FTC

According to the courts, strike out may and insert does.

Big brands like Amazon beat the prospect of false advertising lawsuits by sticking a binding arbitration clause into their Terms & Conditions for customers using their site.

So what’s the takeaway for e-commerce entrepreneurs who aren’t big brands?

Credibility enhancement

If you’re serious about achieving the Dot Com Lifestyle, you’ve got a blog to accompany your website or online store.

Simply add a real price guarantee policy and/or graphic in a prominent position and make mention of it on a regular basis during your marketing campaigns.

This one could’ve been outsourced at Fiverr.com for pocket change and was surely well worth it:

quality guarantee

Online commerce may be a wacky world, but when you show you’re straight up in your business practices, you’ll soon acquire a strong following of grateful customers.

And they translate into repeat business, which is the most efficient kind.