Sometimes not even the “pretty fine print” has the answers consumers are looking for.
Key phrase: "up to." The average reward is only five bucks.
In the above TV commercial, the Public investing app is described by a user as a place where you can invest in companies you believe in, whether that means buying stocks, funds and/or crypto.
But if you think you are going to start your investing journey with a bang by getting $300 in free stock, the maximum amount of free stock Public says is possible if you sign up with promo code “TV,” you need to read the fine print at the end of the commercial. (That may require that you pause your TV, which is what the TINA.org reader who alerted us to the ad did. You may also need to squint.) The fine print states:
Average reward is $5. 0.05% chance of receiving $300.
That translates to 1 out of every 2,000 people getting $300 in free stock. Which are some long odds. There are a multitude of things much more likely to happen to you, including, if you are pregnant, having twins, which occurs in 1 out of every 250 pregnancies (in which case you better hope for some good returns on your investments). Even greater are your chances of being audited by the IRS, which happens to 1 out of every 220 individual taxpayers.
The FTC says marketers shouldn’t use “up to” claims unless consumers are likely to achieve the maximum result promised in the ad. Here, not only does Public admit (in teeny tiny print most consumers probably never see) that the odds you’ll receive $300 in free stock are 0.05%, or 1 in 2,000, the company also discloses (again, in the fine print) that the average reward is not $300 but $5.
TINA.org reached out to Public for comment. Check back for updates.
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