Roanoke, VA (May 30, 2013) The headline reads “State Zip codes determine who get free Silver coins” but there’s nothing free in a new misleading advertisement currently hitting Virginia newsstands.
The BBB serving Western VA has issued an advisory for consumers in reference to a misleading advertising campaign by World Reserve Monetary Exchange, Inc. currently being published in western Virginia newspapers.
The company advertises bags of “over 100 U.S. Government issued coins” some of which may include coins “dating back to the early 1900’s”. The advertisement claims Roanoke residents who find their zip code listed are eligible for the offer and will receive a free 90% pure Silver Walking Liberty coin. The company has been the subject of many ad challenges in the past that were first brought to the BBB’s attention in May of 2010. The BBB in Canton Regional and Greater West Virginia has made several requests to this company to change their advertising practices. Despite the company's previous commitment to refrain from using statements that are untrue, misleading, deceptive, fraudulent or falsely disparaging of competitors, the BBB continues to see the same type of advertising concerns. As of this writing the company currently has an “F” rating with the BBB.
More than 260 consumers have filed complaints against Universal Syndications/World Reserve Monetary Exchange with the BBB. Many of the complaints dealt with concerns over misleading ads, high-pressure sales tactics, and an inability to get refunds as well as difficulty getting the company to stop charging for additional products.
Julie Wheeler, President and CEO of the BBB serving Western VA, said the only way to get the “free Silver coins” is to buy a vault bag of coins for $99. “This is another classic example of a company offering a free product or prize with strings attached. If something is truly free there should not be a purchase required,” said Wheeler. ”We urge our consumers to read over the ad carefully and completely and to be cautious of any company that declares a deadline or time limit in their advertisements.”
Although the ads themselves may differ in subject, the nature of the challenges still exhibit the same primary advertising concerns listed below:
Sense of Urgency-In the company's advertisement, the company issues a 2 day deadline for residents to claim their vault bag. The ads frequently reference a type of scarcity, or limited supply that limits the availability of the offer. The BBB In Canton OH and Greater West Virginia has found on many occasions that this is not necessarily accurate. According to the company, these limitations are based on the company's own limited stock, which is also based on their limited daily capacity and space for their own inventory. The company notes that deadlines are strictly enforced to meet federal and state guidelines; however the BBB still finds the urgency to be misleading.
Product Worth- The advertisement states, “…each Vault Bag is loaded with a small fortune…” There is no way to determine the actual value of the coins as the bags are sealed and cannot be opened before purchase. Multiple consumers have filed complaints alleging the company misrepresented the value of the coins, and that their vault bags were not worth the $99.00 purchase price. The BBB finds that some of the terms, comparisons and endorsements stated can mislead some consumers into thinking that these coins are not only a good investment but something of worth that they can pass down which in many cases is untrue. The company has provided documentation which they feel supports their statement, however the BBB feels the company's position of worth is overstated.
Hidden Cost-In the company advertisement, the only way consumers are able to receive the “free” Walking Liberty silver coin is to claim their vault bag at a cost of $99.00.”
The BBB Code of Advertising states a company can not advertise statements that are untrue, misleading, deceptive, fraudulent, or falsely disparaging of competitors to sell their products. An advertisement as a whole can still be misleading even though every sentence separately is literally true.
The BBB suggests that consumers buying items offered as collectibles be extremely cautious and offers the following tips when dealing with such advertised offers:
- Read the entire ad carefully, looking for disclaimers and other information that indicates the offer may not be what it seems. Make sure you understand exactly what you are ordering and how much it will cost, including shipping.
- Be wary of any offer that indicates the merchandise is a collectible and may increase in value. New items that are sold as collectibles often lose value.
- Be cautious of any company that advertises free merchandise. Such offers usually are contingent on purchasing other items.
- Be cautious of any company that advertises a time limit when offering merchandise. That is often done to create a false sense of urgency for the consumer.
- Start with trust. Contact the BBB first by going to www.bbb.org or by calling (800) 533-5501.
If you need more information, contact the BBB at (540) 342-3455 or (800) 533-5501. You can also visit www.bbb.org. Follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/BBB_WesternVA