False advertising is prohibited by state and federal false advertisement laws. At the federal level, the Lanham Act allows consumers to sue businesses when their commercial advertising “misrepresents the nature, characteristics, qualities, or geographic origin” of goods or services. The Federal Trade Commission has also enacted regulations that prohibit deceptive advertising and help support false advertising attorneys.
In California, the Unfair Competition Law prohibits unfair, deceptive, untrue or misleading advertising. Deceptive advertising laws permit consumers who have been harmed by a falsely advertised product or service to sue the advertiser. The consumer’s harm is usually the failure to receive what the consumer expected after paying for a product or service because the expectation was created by false and deceptive advertising.
Even when a product is inexpensive, a consumer who has been duped into buying it suffers harm. Lawsuits for false advertising allow consumers who have suffered relatively small harms to join together in bringing a collective claim against the false advertiser.
Class action lawsuits force businesses to compensate large numbers of consumers who have been harmed by false advertising. Successful class action lawsuits may also compel businesses to advertise honestly. The false advertising lawyers at The Cooper Law Firm represent California consumers in class action lawsuits based on false advertising and offer free case evaluations. If you’ve suffered as a result of deceptive marketing, The Cooper Law Firm will evaluate your circumstance for free.
False Advertising in California
California law defines advertising broadly to include most statements made to promote the sale of a product or service. Advertising includes not only traditional media advertising (television and radio commercials and printed ads), but also descriptions of goods and services on websites, on displays next to a product, and on product labels. Information provided in telephone solicitations may also be covered by false advertising laws.
California law prohibits advertising that is untrue or misleading. Untrue advertising is advertising that makes an untrue statement. Advertising that a shirt is made from cotton when it is actually made from polyester is an example of untrue advertising.
Under California law, advertising is misleading if it would likely deceive a reasonable consumer. Whether an advertisement is misleading depends upon the overall impression that the advertisement conveys, including the words and images used.
Examples of False Advertising
False or misleading advertising can occur in many different ways. Here are some examples:
- Advertising counterfeit products as genuine.
- Advertising products as “Made in the U.S.A.” when substantial parts of the product come from another country.
- Making untrue representations of product performance. Examples include flash drives and memory cards that do not provide the advertised amount of memory or that fall well short of advertised speeds.
- Overstating engine horsepower in vehicle advertisements.
- Advertising that a product is “clinically proven” to have a certain benefit when no such proof exists.
- Advertising a product as “natural” when it includes artificial ingredients or as “organic” when it has not been organically grown.
- Implying that a drug is the generic equivalent of another drug for which no generic version is available.
- Planting fake reviews of a product on a commercial website (Amazon, for example) without disclosing that the reviews are not from actual consumers.
- Advertising that an accessory (for example, a mop head or a vacuum cleaner bag) is designed to fit a specific product when, if fact, it does not fit the product.
- Advertising success rates of people who complete a particular course (for example, the rate of students who pass a real estate licensing exam after taking a course) when the advertised success rates are misleading or inaccurate.
- Advertising a service (such as hair removal) as “pain free” when in fact it is painful.
- Using “enhanced” photographic techniques to improve the appearance of the “after” picture in “before and after” comparisons.
- Advertising “no hidden fees” when a customer is required to pay undisclosed fees.
- Advertising “haggle free, no negotiation” prices (on used cars, for example) when the salesperson attempts to negotiate with customers who turn down the advertised price.
- Advertising that an antibacterial product or an herbal supplement will help consumers avoid catching colds or the flu when there is no evidence to support those claims.
- Advertising that a product outperforms a competing product when the evidence does not support that claim.
- Claiming that shoes are based on a “secret technology” that helps wearers burn fat when, in fact, they are ordinary running shoes.
- Advertising that a battery or light bulb “lasts longer” than other brands when that claim is untrue.
- Advertising that a diet supplement will help consumers lose weight without disclosing that increased exercise and reduced caloric intake are required before the consumer will see any results.
- Advertising that a product has “no calories” when it does.
- Advertising that a sugary cereal or similar food product is “good for you” when it is actually detrimental to health.
- Offering a rebate for the product without disclosing terms that will disqualify most consumers from receiving the rebate.
Take a look at our Product Labeling page for additional examples of false advertising that apply to misleading product labels. In such instances, those affected would benefit from speaking with a lawyer for false advertising.
Bait-and-switch is a tactic that sellers use to lure consumers into their businesses by advertising a product or service at a very favorable price. Once the consumer responds to the advertisement, the seller pressures the consumer to buy a more expensive good or service.
Section 17500 of the California Business and Professions Code makes it illegal for a business to advertise a product or service at a particular price as part of a plan or scheme with the intent not to sell that product or service at the advertised price. Examples of bait-and-switch schemes include:
- Claiming the advertised product is “sold out” and encouraging the customer to buy a more expensive product rather than offering a rain check.
- Displaying the picture of a high quality product in an advertisement when a different, inferior product is the one being offered for sale at the advertised price.
- Advertising a low-cost insurance policy and then attempting to persuade consumers that they need a more expensive policy.
- Advertising a low-cost hotel room without disclosing that mandatory extra charges will substantially increase the cost of the room.
False Advertising Class Action Lawsuits
Successful false advertising claims have been brought against big companies that manufacture brand name products, including Sketchers and New Balance running shoes, Activa and Airborne cold prevention medications, Hyundai and KIA automobiles, Listerine mouthwash, Dannon yogurt, Duracell batteries, Kellogg’s cereals, and Pennzoil motor oils. Smaller, local companies have also been successfully sued for violating false advertising laws.
What Victims Can Do
If you believe you were induced to purchase a product or service by advertising that was untrue, deceptive, or misleading, call the false advertising lawyers in California at The Cooper Law Firm for an evaluation of your case. It may be possible to use a class action lawsuit to vindicate your rights. Call (844) 724-9200 to get help today.