, small print
, or "mouseprint"
is less noticeable print smaller than the more obvious larger print it accompanies that advertises or otherwise describes or partially describes a commercial product or service. The larger print that is used in conjunction with fine print by the merchant often has the effect of deceiving the consumer into believing the offer is more advantageous than it really is, via a legal technicality
which requires full disclosure
of all (even unfavorable) terms or conditions, but does not specify the manner (size, typeface
, coloring, etc.) of disclosure. There is strong evidence that suggests the fine print is not read by the majority of consumers.
Fine print may say the opposite of what the larger print says. For example, if the larger print says "pre-approved" the fine print might say "subject to approval." Especially in pharmaceutical advertisements, fine print may accompany a warning
message, but this message is often neutralized by the more eye-catching positive images and pleasant background music (eye candy). Sometimes television advertisements flash text fine print in camouflagic colors, and for notoriously brief
periods of time, making it difficult or impossible for the viewer to read.
The use of fine print is a common advertising technique in certain market niches, particularly those of high-margin specialty products or services uncompetitive with those in the mainstream
market. The practice, for example, can be used to mislead the consumer about an item's price or value, or the nutritional content of a food product.
US Federal Trade Commission
(FTC) regulations state that, for an advertised offer to be lawful, the terms of the offer must be clear and conspicuous
, not relegated to fine print.