Are you guilty of false advertising?
Do you own a business? Do you advertise on the internet, on the radio, television, or in print?
If so, are you telling the truth about your products and/or services? If not, BEWARE! A competitor or a consumer can possibly sue you for making false and misleading statements about your wares. And, not only can you be sued in state court for making false and misleading statements about your products and services, but you can be dragged into federal court, too. Think I’m lying? Think again!
What is False Advertising?
The general rule of law advertising law under the Lanham Act provides that, to establish a claim for false advertisement, a plaintiff (the one filing the lawsuit) must show that the statement is false, either by proving that the advertising is “literally false”, or that if even the statement is literally true, that customers are likely to be confused or deceived.
In a 2009 case, Enfamil, the maker of baby formula, was found liable for false advertising, when it sent out mailers claiming that the generic store-brand formulas were nutritionally inferior. A federal court found that Enfamil crossed the line. It never ends well when companies try to exaggerate the benefit of their products or stretch the truth about their competitors.
While companies like Red Bull have offered a large payout ($13 million) to damaged consumers, the FTC can also issue fines when it deems it necessary. In fact, the largest fine ($2 million) in relation to false advertising occurred in late 2018, when the FTC fined Marketing Architects, a firm in Main, for misleading advertising regarding a weight loss product.
1. Be truthful when talking about your products/services.
2. Avoid bad-mouthing your competitors.
3. Avoid intentionally trying to confuse your customers about the quality of your products/services.
4. Don’t make claims that can be scientifically proven wrong.
5. Be careful of what your tag line says – it could be misleading.
Francine D. Ward
Attorney-At-Law, Author, Speaker
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