Does fine print drive you crazy? Like me, do you find yourself wading through 63-page credit card agreements — trying to understand the legalese but often failing? Don’t you wish there were a site that highlighted the lunacy of this stuff? Well, there is.
“Mouse print” is the fine print in advertising, in a contract, or on a product label, often buried out of easy sight. In the worst cases, the mouse print changes the meaning of, or contradicts the primary claims or promises being made. Sometimes, the catch is not even disclosed. In other cases, the fine print is merely an unexpected surprise for the reader. Fine print is not inherently illegal. But, advertisers are not safe from false advertising claims merely because an ad discloses the truth in some minimal manner.
MousePrint.org turns advertising on its head by focusing on an ad’s asterisked fine print footnote rather than the headline. It also examines the often overlooked small print on product labels and contracts. A new ad, product, or contract is featured every Monday. The goal is to help educate the public about the catches or “gotchas” in disclaimers, and to encourage advertisers to abandon the motto, “the big print giveth, and the little print taketh away.”
Here are some examples of the sorts of “gotchas” that Mouse Print highlights:
- You know those ubiquitous IQ tests on Facebook and other sites? Mouse Print warns that by completing some of these IQ tests, you are agreeing to a $9.99 monthly charge. Yikes!
- An extra “shipping and handling charge” required to subscribe to ShopSmart magazine. To make this one especially egregious, ShopSmart comes from the publisher of Consumer Reports. Yikes!
- Staples stores claim they’ve made their “easy rebates” “even easier”. What they’ve really done is change the rebates from an instant discount to a rebate in the form of a Visa debit card — one with a $3 monthly maintenance fee. Yikes!
- It wasn’t enough for General Mills to be able to claim that its Cheerios cereal could help you lower your cholesterol 4% in 6 weeks. No, instead they paid for and co-authored a new study that conveniently found that Cheerios actually lowers cholesterol 10% in one month. Yikes!
Mouse Prints has been featuring one new example of fine print shenanigans every Monday since March 2006. It’s fun to leaf through the archives to read examples of the stuff some companies try to pull. My favorite, though, is the entry on the unreadable gibberish at in TV show credits, which takes a light-hearted look at the “vanity cards” of producer Chuck Lorre.