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What Is a False Advertising Claim?

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  • Written By: Marlene Garcia
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 14 November 2016
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A false advertising claim alleges deceptive practices that misrepresent a product or service. Advertisements containing false information or those that mislead consumers might result in false advertising claims or fraud. These claims might apply to images and headlines used in ads, along with disclosures in fine print deemed insufficient to balance claims in the bulk of the advertisement.

Laws in many regions prohibit commercial advertising that deceives consumers about goods or services. A false advertising claim might be based on actual false statements or confusing language. An example of a literal falsehood might include references to clinical studies or tests that prove the effectiveness of a product, or a claim stating it outperforms a competitor’s product.

A false advertising claim might show improper or biased test procedures were used in studies cited. If other research contradicts information used in ads, it might also lead to a claim against the manufacturer. Laws regulating advertisements usually require valid, scientific data specific to the merchandise marketed.

When competitors file a false advertising claim, the dispute typically ends up in court. A judge can issue a temporary injunction at the beginning of the case ordering the defendant to cease using certain advertising statements. A permanent injunction at the end of a trial could prohibit use of the disputed ads in the future.

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Government regulatory agencies typically file false advertising claims on behalf of consumers. These agencies might investigate claims made in marketing material and impose civil or criminal penalties on violators. Government agents might issue a cease and desist order to manufacturers who use deceptive practices to sell goods. These decisions are commonly made public.

Vague or broadly worded exaggerations used in ads typically are exempt from false advertising claims. A company that contends it uses only the highest-quality ingredients, for example, usually makes a subjective claim that cannot be proved or disproved. Opinions used in marketing are also allowed in most areas.

A class action lawsuit might be filed when a large number of consumers have been misled. Some of the most common class action suits involve dietary supplements claiming to treat or cure disease. Weight-loss products might also fail to support claims professed in ads. Advertising laws apply to product labels and claims made in print, on television or radio, and online marketing. Monetary awards have been ordered in some instances, including refunds to purchasers.

False advertising claims might also apply to bait-and-switch tactics used to confuse consumers. Other areas regulated by the government include failure to disclose important information a buyer should know before making a purchase. These laws might protect the health and safety of the public or the environment, and aim to hold manufacturers accountable for claims they make.

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