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IT ads ‘selling impossible dreams’ – Which?

You mean this PC won't get rid of piles?

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Shoppers are being warned not to be suckered into buying computers and other IT gear just on the back of slick advertising.

Computing Which?, published today, claims some advertising for IT products is "selling impossible dreams" with companies "advertising products unable to live up to the claims made in their ads and on their packaging".

The consumer mag stops short of accusing firms of deliberately mis-selling gear. Instead, it suggests that punters' lack of IT knowledge can mean that a product's capabilities are "often ambiguous".

For instance, one ad flogging Intel's Centrino 'wireless-ready' processor shows an idyllic image of a woman working on a laptop in a remote country setting.

Consumers could be easily mislead into thinking that buying a laptop equipped with this chip would enable them to work anywhere and everywhere as easily as they do when plugged in at home, says Computing Which?. It's not until unsuspecting punters read the small print that they discover that they also need a wireless connection to actually make the thing work.

Then there's HP's claims that its Photosmart 7550 can print 17 black and white pages a minute. Tests by Computing Which? found that the printer could only manage six pages a minute.

Which leads the mag to the following conclusion. It is not enough to give punters just meaningless technical info - even if it is technically correct. For ordinary punters, omissions and ambiguities can be just as misleading as outright inaccuracies, argues the mag.

"Until we reach a consensus on how technical terms are defined and used so that they reflect the reality of what a product can actually do, rather than what's merely possible, manufacturers will continue to promote their products in a way that is misleading," said editor Jessica Ross.

The advice to punters is simple - pay attention to the small print and ask as many questions as possible before buying new hardware and software ®

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