We all know to expect a little hyperbole and puffery in advertising. We understand that Gatorade won't turn us into Gabrielle Union and that throwing a giant Snickers into a hole won’t solve all of the world’s problems. Probably not even one of them.
Advertisements often contain intentionally exaggerated, ridiculous, and over-the-top storylines intended to illicit an emotional response. These are not, however, meant to be taken as literal claims about a product and are, therefore, not false advertising.
False advertising is not silly or unimportant. It's a serious issue, and innocent consumers can waste a significant amount of money as a result of being misled by a product advertisement. Our false advertising lawyers can help if you've lost money as a result of a misleading or outright dishonest ad.
If you live in or around Torrance, Redondo Beach, or surrounding South Bay communities and you need an experienced false advertising lawyer, please call Kirtland & Packard, LLP today at 310-536-1000 for a free consultation.
What Qualifies as False Advertising?
False Advertising occurs when misleading, incorrect, or completely false information is used to sell a product or service. This deceptive practice is sometimes hidden through the use of “creative” advertisements, but there is a clear and obvious difference between thematically creative elements in advertisements and intentionally false or misleading claims. There are state and federal laws governing the nature of advertisements. Under these laws, an ad is considered legally “false” and actionable if it makes untrue or misleading claims about the product or its price.
False advertising provides consumers with an incorrect understanding of the product and its capabilities, leading to what would have been an avoidable financial loss for the consumer. It is federally prohibited under Section 43(a) of the Lanham Act, and can be criminally prosecuted by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Is Misleading Advertising Unethical?
Misleading and false advertising are intended to deceive. Intentional deception is unethical.
As consumers, we are entitled to honest and complete information about what we are purchasing. When a company intentionally lies or misleads to make a profit, its agents have acted unethically.
What are Examples of False Advertising?
Specific examples of false advertising include:
- Deceptive labeling
- Hidden fees and costs
- False promises
- Flawed research
- Bait and switch schemes
- Failure to disclose key factors
Manipulating phrases such as "All Natural" and “No Risk”, hiding terms in small print, and similarly questionable practices may qualify as false advertising as well.
In the state of California, a company may be found guilty of false advertising if:
- A false or misleading statement was made in regards to a service or product and
- The company knew or should have known the statement was either false or misleading
False advertising may occur anywhere a product or service is advertised. Many times they are encountered online through websites and blogs. They can also be encountered on the radio, on television, through print ads and direct mailers, and even in-person solicitations.
Can You Sue for False Advertising?
False advertising is illegal. Federally, the FTC can bring a criminal suit against a company for false advertising. In California, the state attorney general may bring a civil suit against companies who violate California Business and Professions Code 17500, which makes false and misleading advertising illegal.
Consumers can also bring civil suit against companies for false advertising. If you have been injured or have suffered financial damages due to false advertising, it is a good idea to consult with an attorney to learn if you have cause to file suit.
An individual false advertising claim might be a relatively small matter with insignificant damages to file suit. As such, pursuing an individual legal claim is not always feasible in these situations. Many false advertising claims are pursued as class action lawsuits, allowing disparate litigants from across the country to combine their claims in one setting for ease of logistics.
Contact Kirtland & Packard Today
If you live in Los Angeles County and have been the victim of false advertising, Kirtland & Packard may be able to help you get justice. Please call our Redondo Beach office at 310-536-1000 to schedule a free consultation and learn more.