What is False Advertising
The Consumer Protection Act of 2007 deems advertising as misleading if it involves “false, misleading, or deceptive information that is likely to cause the average consumer to act in a way they might otherwise not.”
You might think that false advertising is showing appealing food via a commercial or billboard only to get to the restaurant and find the burgers aren’t super-sized nor are other featured menu items matching the pictures in the ad. However, this isn’t truly false advertising. False advertising occurs most often when important information that the consumer needs to make a decision is left out.
Take, for instance, the advertisements for pharmaceutical drugs. Even if some medications can cause serious health issues such as a heart attack or stroke, the manufacturer must disclose this knowledge so that the consumer can make an “informed decision.”
What are Some Examples of False Advertising?
One type of false advertising is an untrue claim about the goods and/or services advertised. For instance, if a company advertises blue fidget spinners made from sterling silver, those fidget spinners had better be blue in color and of the most authentic of silvers.
Next, advertising price incorrectly can provoke a consumer to buy a product only to find he or she has been charged a much-higher price than expected. Advertising low prices to lure customers only to charge them a non-sale price is considered false advertising.
Misrepresenting the product in any way can be viewed as false advertising. For instance, claiming to provide free delivery for a good or service only to add a charge to the consumer for delivery is a prime example of fraudulent advertising.
Leaving out any type of pertinent information regarding the good or service being provided is false advertisement.
Should a business attempt to claim membership in an organization that would make it appear more credible – for instance, a business claiming to be a part of the Better Business Bureau if it is not, this is considered false advertising.
Any time the business advertises information that could be misleading or misconstrued, even if the initial information is correct, can be considered false advertising.
What Laws Exist to Protect Consumers Against False Advertising?
Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act declares deceptive acts or practices that make products and services appear to be something that they are not an illegal act.
The Federal Trade Commission refers to hidden fees that a consumer might not know about prior to purchasing a product (but that are reflected in the final price) as “cramming.” This is also illegal.
Certainty in terms means that products offering a guarantee or warranty must live up to said promise or be guilty of false advertising.
The federal Lanham Act is a primary legality that allows for civil lawsuits against companies that knowingly participate in false advertising.
What can the Consumer do if they Suspect they’ve been Victims of False Advertising?
You can file a lawsuit or take other legal action if you have incurred some type of financial loss “or other damage.” Before you consider legal action, you may want to consider filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau (BBB.org), a nonprofit organization that offers dispute resolution services to consumers. BBB handles about a million complaints a year, of which about two-thirds are resolved. This service is free to consumers thanks to the BBB Accredited Businesses that support its mission of marketplace trust.
You’ll want to find an attorney who specializes in consumer law. Research will help you to find lawyers with this qualification, but a free consultation can tell you more. Ask your attorney about references just to be sure.
False advertising can have a detrimental effect on the consumer. If you feel like you’ve been had by a business, then contact a reputable attorney.