What is False or Misleading Advertising?

Advertising is a very powerful tool that companies use to persuade consumers to purchase property, goods or services.

Last year alone, companies spent over $200 billion for print, online, TV, and radio advertising.

Companies are required to follow strict state and federal guidelines when advertising their products and services, and advertisements that are designed to deceive or mislead consumers are prohibited by law.

What follows are examples of the false or misleading advertising tactics that are sometimes used:

What is False or Misleading Advertising?

State and federal laws define the practice of false or misleading advertising as:

• The act of using deceptive, misleading, or false statements about a product or service in an advertisement.

• Any advertising statements or claims that are deceptive, misleading, or false about a product or service that’s being sold.

False advertising laws stipulate that consumers are entitled to know exactly what they are purchasing, along with the specific amount they are being charged for a property, good or service.

Types of False or Misleading Advertising

False and misleading advertising takes many forms:


This occurs when a company advertises a product or service it never intends to provide. For example, Joe’s appliance store advertises a dishwasher at an unbelievably low price, while mentioning in the ad that supplies are “limited”. When customers arrive at the store, they’re told that the advertised model is sold out and are shown more expensive dishwashers instead.

Misleading Photos or Illustrations

Sometimes images included within an ad make an item look more attractive to consumers than it really is. For example, grocery store chains sometimes use photo enhancement software to enhance the actual appearance of food items so that you will buy them.

Price Deception

Price deception is when a company uses false or misleading pricing in its ads for a product
or service. For example, a clothing store may advertise that a shirt is on sale at half-price when
that advertised shirt was never sold at a higher price to begin with.

Unsubstantiated Claims

This occurs when a company claims that their product will provide specific benefits to end users that have never been officially proven.

Here’s an example: A holistic health company runs an online consumer advertising campaign that claims their all-natural nutritional supplement helps cure cancer. However, no medical data exist to validate that claim. As a result, a judge later orders them to stop promoting their product based on unsubstantiated claims.

Comparison Inconsistencies

These happen when an advertisement compares one company’s product to a competitor’s only in areas where it is superior, leaving out the fact the other product is superior in other ways. By doing so, one company gains an unfair marketing advantage over others. A good example of comparison inconsistencies is the way auto manufacturers sometimes market their vehicles against comparable makes and models.

How False Advertising Laws Work:

When it comes to advertisements, state and federal false advertising laws protect consumers by requiring companies to be:

• Very accurate when describing a product, including illustrations and pictures
• Fair in how they treat all competitors
• Equipped to carry an ample supply of the advertised product(s)
• Upfront and truthful about pricing
• Cautious when using the words “free” or “sale”

False advertising cases are usually heard in civil court and not criminal court. If found guilty of violating false advertising laws, a company may be ordered by the court to pay fines, notify consumers about the misleading information, and possibly pay damages to consumers (plaintiffs) they have misled.

Have you Been a Victim of False or Misleading Advertising?

If you believe that you or a loved one has been victimized by untruthful advertising we would like to hear from you about your experience. Contact Forrest LaMothe today to schedule your FREE, no-commitment consultation with one of our attorneys. To reach the law offices of Forrest LaMothe now, please call us toll free at: 877-599-8890, or visit: forrestlamothe.com.