Can there actually be honesty in advertising?

Back in June when I wrote this story "Why is no one suing the Wireless LAN industry", I could only hope that someone in the industry would be listening.  Now it appears my prayers have been answered with this report from Tim Higgins that Belkin is offering a guarantee on their product's wireless performance or your money back!

Back in June when I wrote this story "Why is no one suing the Wireless LAN industry", I could only hope that someone in the industry would be listening.  Now it appears my prayers have been answered with this report from Tim Higgins that Belkin is offering a guarantee on their product's wireless performance or your money back!  Belkin says that they want "to provide Belkin customers a clear expectation of actual speeds and coverage."  While I believe this is long overdue, Belkin deserves credit for having the courage to unilaterally ratchet down the dishonesty in advertising.

At the 2004 NetWorld+Interop show in Vegas, I had a long conversation with a product marketing guy from Belkin about this very thing.  He explained the nasty game of performance inflation where all it takes is one company exaggerating some performance numbers and everyone else is forced to follow or lose sales.  Consumers are then stuck with products that don't even come close to the speed and range promised by the manufacturers.  Belkin new program to post honest performance numbers might mean a plus for Belkin sales  if this is properly communicated and consumers realize that they are seeing real world performance numbers.  What I'd really like to see happen is that all wireless LAN equipment makers come up with a common benchmark platform that everyone should abide by and follow.

One reader questioned my technical competence in this talkback asking why I didn't go after the LAN industry as well for claiming 100 megabit FastEthernet.  What he failed to understand is that wired Ethernet can achieve a sustained throughput that is 95% of the advertised throughput while wireless LANs can barely sustain 30% of the advertised throughput.  Others made the argument that this sort of false advertising is to be expected in the computing industry and that it's buyer beware, but the hard drive manufacturers were  sued successfully for just barely fudging the stated capacity of their products.  I'm no fan of frivolous and excessive lawsuits, but consumers who really are the victims of false advertising claims deserve their money back, and those companies who engage in false advertising should be severely fined.  Creating a level playing field by enforcing ethical standards will reward the honest companies and punish the liars.

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