Fine print, 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.
Fine print is controversial because of its deceptive nature. Its purpose is to make the consumer believe that the offer is really great. Though the real truth about the offer is technically available to the consumer in the smaller print of the advertisement—thus virtually ensuring plausible deniability from claims of fraud—it is often designed to be overlooked. The unsuspecting customer, who can instantly see all the attractive aspects of the offer, will, due to natural impulsive behavior, time constraints, and/or personal need, generally not bother to learn the caveats, instead focusing on the positives of the deal.
Many offers, advertised in large print, only apply when certain conditions are met. In many cases, these conditions are difficult or nearly impossible to meet.
In some cases, the seller who uses this technique will engage in the practice of bait and switch. The customer will be told when ready to purchase that for one reason or another, they will not be eligible for the advertised offer, and will be coerced into one that is higher priced (see Hard sell). Reasons they may be given include his/her age, credit rating, size or location of residence, the type of vehicle s/he owns, the amount of prior business s/he has done with that company, or the variety of the item s/he wishes to purchase. Often when this occurs, the limitations that render him/her ineligible will apply to an overwhelming majority of consumers.
Very frequently, consumers, eager to obtain a product or service they have the dire need or wish for, or that they have been coerced into obtaining, will sign their names on a binding contract. A court may find the consumer to be liable to the terms of the contract, although stated only by the fine print, and an exit from these terms may be costly or impossible.
Some examples of how consumers are deceived are as follows:
A common practice has been to use fine print in advertising on television. In such a case, the fine print is displayed at the bottom of the screen in a manner where it is not noticeable to many viewers, or is displayed for such a short time that no one has the time to read the entire paragraph without an artificial means of stopping the commercial, i.e. record it or freeze frame it, such as with a digital video recorder (DVR), in order to read it. The attention is drawn away from this little section by the more eye-catching or large print description of the offer, which alone is untrue.
Fine print is often illegible, e.g., when a TV picture is noisy, low-resolution, or the viewer's sight is impaired. Banking offers have been displayed on video billboards by highways that are unreadable by passing drivers.
Some TV and radio commercials are concluded with "fast talking", which is barely audible or comprehensible to most. While it is this very message that states all necessary disclaimers and exceptions to the advertisement, it is often stated too fast for the viewer or listener to comprehend. This is often coupled with pleasant background music and positive images, which in turn takes the consumer's focus off of the disclaimer.
Many consumer advocates are active in lobbying for laws to limit the rights of an advertiser to use fine print to hide the truth, and to expand rights to consumers who fall victim to fine print. Due to free speech that is granted to advertisers, passing such laws in the United States has proven to be difficult. Many such laws that have successfully been passed have ultimately been overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. See also Corporate personhood debate.
Consumer advocates have widely criticized the credit card industry for its increasing ruthlessness in its practices, which allow the banks seemingly unlimited rights to charge whatever fees they wish, to rewrite the terms and conditions faced by the consumer at will, and to not be challenged by the consumer in their practices. The consumer who initially obtained the card was inevitably drawn by the large print, which was accompanied by pages of fine print few are likely to read in full or to understand. During the 1990s, two laws against such practices were overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, and these rulings are said to have opened the floodgates for even more ruthless practices.
Several states have considered laws that would require retailers to provide advertised rebates to customers at the time of the purchase with no strings attached. These laws have been widely opposed by corporations, and are yet to have passed in any states, except Connecticut and Rhode Island, where they are only allowed if unadvertised.
Advertising by conventional banks is relatively highly regulated, requiring disclosures that generally are made, but appear in small print. In some cases, the minimum size of any small print is regulated, such as credit card advertising/application Schumer's box disclosure requirements. One bank offered non-FDIC-insured CDs yielding 10% in letters almost 3" high, while the small print 1/16" high disclosed the lack of insurance.