Who hasn’t been frustrated by a bait-and-switch claim or disappointed when an advertised product isn’t in stores? Have you been taken advantage of by big corporations or spent your money on an item, believing it was as advertised, only to have something else arrive?
Victims of false advertising have rights, and companies that knowingly engage in deceitful advertising practices should be held accountable. A complex litigation lawyer is one who fights for the rights of victims of false advertising, seeking compensation for their losses.
Proving false advertising is a complicated legal issue, though, and a successful outcome often requires litigation by a skilled consumer protection attorney.
False Advertising Is Prohibited by Law
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission regulates the permitted advertising of goods and services in the U.S. It sets strict rules about what can and cannot be claimed in radio, TV, print, and internet advertising, with serious penalties for companies that violate them.
But companies are also granted permission to make their products seem as appealing as possible, so exaggeration in some form is permitted. To determine whether you have been a victim of false advertising, it’s important to fully understand what it is and your rights as a consumer.
What are unfair and deceptive trade practices?
An unfair or deceptive trade practice is one that is intentionally misleading and causes harm to consumers.
Both private consumers and other businesses can be affected by unfair trade practices and false advertising. Suppose one company is making grandiose promises about a product. A competing seller advertising the product more accurately may lose market share and revenue because consumers are purchasing from the deceitful competitor instead.
Deceptive trade practices include those that:
- Contain an omission or misrepresentation that is likely to mislead a consumer
- Could reasonably be misinterpreted by a potential customer under the presented circumstances
- A deceptive practice or act significant enough to be material
There is a broad range of what could be considered deceptive, but the crux of proving it is showing that a reasonable person could conclude that the advertised product is something different than what is delivered.
Some common examples of false advertising or deceptive trade practices include:
- Consistently overcharging for a product or service
- Not settling an insurance claim in good faith
- Substituting an inferior product for one that is advertised
- Claiming a product does something that it clearly does not
- Implying or claiming a product is new when it’s clearly used
- Slander or libel against a business competitor
This is not an exhaustive list; your consumer protection attorney can tell you for certain whether your experience constitutes false advertising.
Consumers’ Rights Regarding Deceptive Trade Practices
If you suffered financial or material damages because of unfair advertising, then you have five years from the date of your purchase (or the date you discovered the deception) to file a lawsuit.
Your lawyer will build a case that consists of the following elements:
- There was an unfair advertisement, and you had no reason to believe it was untrue
- The advertisement or claim by the company affected commerce (the advertisement prompted your purchase)
- Your purchase caused you financial harm or your business loss
Many of these cases come down to determining whether a reasonable person would believe the advertisement’s claims or whether it was clear that the commercial was an exaggeration.
Have you been harmed by a deceptive or unfair trade practice?
Whether you’re a consumer who bought a “pig in a poke” or a competing business whose market share diminished due to the false advertising of your competitor, you have the right to receive restitution for your losses.