EU watchdogs eyeing blurbs

Law bans promoters from omitting context

Ever wondered if that unqualified superlative “Brilliant!” splashed across an ad for the latest tuner might have been cleverly extracted from a review that actually reads, “Could have been brilliant, if only everyone involved weren’t such lummoxes”?

The European Union is on the case.

The EU’s Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, which takes effect in Britain next April, bans deceptive promotions for all sorts of consumer purchases, including stage tix, making it a crime for theater advertisers to quote selectively from a review if the relevant context is omitted.

The development leads New Yorkers to the question: Could such a law pass in Gotham?

It already did. In 1969.

According to the Department of Consumer Affairs, the Consumer Protection Law forbids “all deceptive or unconscionable trade practices in the sale, lease, rental, or loan, or in the offering for sale, lease, rental, or loan of any consumer goods and services.”

There’s even a clause outlawing “out-of-context quotes.”

In 38 years, however, that law hasn’t proven much of an impediment to advertisers culling quotations from negative reviews and casting them in a light more favorable than originally intended. Nor has it stopped critics from periodically grumbling about it.

So the next time you come across a “Brilliant!” when you’re flipping through the arts section, take it with a grain of salt.

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