What Is False Advertising?

What Is False Advertising? Federal and state laws are in place to protect consumers from false advertising and scams that make deceptive claims about a product’s price, quality, or function. When consumers experience financial or other losses as a result of false or deceptive advertising, they have the right to pursue legal action with the help of a skilled attorney. However, how do you know when you have experienced a consumer scam?

What are the signs to look out for? What are some common examples of false or misleading advertising? Read on to find out.

Examples of false advertising

First, what is an advertisement? An ad can be seen on tv, radio, in newspapers, in magazines, or on the internet. It gives consumers a quick view of what they should get in return for purchasing the advertised product or service. Advertisements typically focus on the price you pay compared to the features and services you get in return. False advertising is when the information given about the product is misleading in any way.

Consumers can make a claim for false advertising by showing that the:

(1) defendant made false or misleading statements as to his own products (or another’s); (2) actual deception, or at least a tendency to deceive a substantial portion of the intended audience; (3) deception is material in that it is likely to influence purchasing decisions; (4) the advertised goods travel in interstate commerce; and (5) a likelihood of injury to plaintiff. However, the plaintiff does not have to prove actual injury.

Common examples of false advertising include:

  • Bait and switch – advertising a product the business does not intend to deliver and instead providing a product of lower quality.
  • Misleading photos – using photos of a much higher-quality product than the business actually delivers
  • Hidden fees – extra fees not disclosed in advertising, like cell phone activation fees or mandatory qualification fees
  • Misuse of terms – incorrect or misleading use of terms like organic, all-natural, light, or sugar-free
  • “Going out of business” sales – when businesses raise prices on merchandise so they can mark them down to give the appearance of a discount

These are only a few of the many types of false and deceptive types of business advertising.

The case of the all-you-can-eat buffet

Every few years, a story makes the news rounds about someone being kicked out of an all-you-can-eat buffet for eating too much. Making a successful case against a restaurant seems rare, but the issue persists:

  • In 2017, a man reportedly sued Golden Corral for being tossed from the restaurant after consuming 50 pounds of food from the buffet over a course of seven hours.
  • In November 2016, a Florida family of seven was asked to leave a buffet for eating “too many crab legs.”
  • A Wisconsin man began protesting a local restaurant in 2012 after being denied “all-you-can-eat” fish at their weekly fish fry.

The question remains, if you’re tossed out of an all-you-can-eat buffet, is it false advertising? Typically, it depends on the restaurant and it depends how much you eat.

An interesting and lighthearted case study from the Public Legal Education Association (PLEA) talks about the beloved cartoon character Homer Simpson being tossed out of an all you can eat buffet for overeating, with Simpson’s attorney Lionel Hutz calling it “the most blatant case of fraudulent advertising since my suit against the film The Never-Ending Story.”

Although The Simpsons storyline is obviously satire, the case study also mentions a real-life case in Iowa where a couple was removed from a buffet for overeating. In this case, PLEA states:

In regards to all-you-can-eat restaurants, a spokesman for the Iowa attorney general’s office told the Des Moines Register that “Businesses are obligated to live up to their offers, but implementation needs to be reasonable.” It would likely not be reasonable to expect a restaurant to provide all-you-can-eat to a patron who may leave other customers without food, or put the financial well-being of the restaurant in jeopardy.

So the answer to the buffets and false advertising question? It depends. However, a skilled consumer dispute attorney can sit down with you and answer all of your questions and concerns.

What other consumer scams should I look out for?

There are a variety of consumer scams out there in addition to false advertising, and it is important to be aware of them. If you or a loved one happen to be caught up in one, one of our San Antonio consumer fraud attorneys can help. Common consumer fraud matters we help clients with include:

  • Tech support scams
  • Advance fee scams
  • Phishing
  • IRS imposter scams
  • Bogus debts
  • Home repair scams
  • Gift card scams
  • Emergency money scams
  • Foreign money exchange scams
  • Counterfeit cashier’s checks
  • Employment scams

Fraudsters and criminals will employ a range of tactics to scam unsuspecting victims. Even if the scam is not listed here, you can look for some red flags. If any of the following deceptive signs are present when speaking with a potential scammer, you should cease contact or hang up the phone immediately:

  • They contact you first, so you are unsure of how they know who you are.
  • They use money as bait, like a shopping spree or easy loan. Chances are, this is a lie.
  • They request very personal information, such as your Social Security number or bank account information. Never give this information to anyone who is not authorized to have it – this may be cause to report to authorities.
  • You have to pay money to win a contest, or as a condition of employment.
  • You must send a wire transfer or a gift card. These are nonrefundable forms of payment, so once the money is sent, there is no way to get it back.

Some people will try to scam a scammer, but the best thing to do in these situations is hang up or walk away. We also recommend contacting a San Antonio consumer dispute attorney if you have fallen victim to a scam and need help.

If you were a victim of false advertising, you need a San Antonio consumer protection attorney on your side. Contact Grable Grimshaw PLLC by calling 210-761-5687, or completing our contact form to schedule an appointment and discuss your options with a member of our legal team.