It is a marketing team's job to advertise a product using the best of their abilities. To gather as much attention and publicity as possible, a common strategy is to exaggerate a product's characteristics. Most, if not all, advertising firms do this. However, to intentionally mislead the consumer, making them believe false and overexaggerated claims is downright wrong. As a matter of fact, that is considered false advertising. False advertising is the criminal offense of intentionally misleading the customers into buying products under false assumptions. In California, Business and Professions Code 17500 was enacted to criminalize the act of false advertising.
California Business and Professions Code BPC 17500
The statute declares that it is unlawful for any person, firm, corporation or association, or any employee thereof with intent directly or indirectly to dispose of real or personal property or to perform services, professional or otherwise, or anything of any nature whatsoever or to induce the public to enter into any obligation relating thereto, to make or disseminate or cause to be made or disseminated before the public in this state, or to make or disseminate or cause to be made or disseminated from this state before the public in any state, in any newspaper or other publication, or any advertising device, or by public outcry or proclamation, or in any other manner or means whatever, including over the Internet, any statement, concerning that real or personal property or those services, professional or otherwise, or concerning any circumstance or matter of fact connected with the proposed performance or disposition thereof, which is untrue or misleading, and which is known, or which by the exercise of reasonable care should be known, to be untrue or misleading, or for any person, firm, or corporation to so make or disseminate or cause to be so made or disseminated any such statement as part of a plan or scheme with the intent not to sell that personal property or those services, professional or otherwise, so advertised at the price stated therein, or as so advertised. Any violation of the provisions of this section is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six months, or by a fine not exceeding two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500), or by both that imprisonment and fine.
Examples of False Advertising
The following are examples of how big companies tried to fool the consumers with unproven claims:
- Car companies advertise eco-friendly diesel vehicles despite emission tests proving their claim to be false.
- Energy drink claiming that their products will give the consumers special abilities.
- Breakfast cereals claiming their food can boost the consumer's immune system, research proves them wrong.
- Shoes that advertise calorie burning effects despite not being able to.
Penalties for Violating California Business and Professions Code BPC 17500
False advertising committed that is under the general conditions of BPC 17500 is considered as a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor is an offense's severity level, one that is more serious than an infraction but less severe than felonies. The punishment usually includes a fine and/or incarceration in county jails. As a misdemeanor offense, the punishments of committing the act of false advertising include:
- Incarceration or jail time of up to six (6) months in county jail, and/or
- A fine of up to two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500).
- Unless expunged, false advertising charges will show up on the convict's criminal records. This situation can lead to a plethora of social exclusions, especially from privileges, only people with clean criminal records can acquire.
Legal defenses when facing False Advertising charges
Fighting a legal battle against BPC 17500 accusations requires specific details to prove the Fighting a legal battle against BPC 17500 accusations requires specific details to prove the defendant's innocence. A competent defense lawyer might include some of the following conditions on their case:
- Honest advertising,
The defendant did not do anything resembling the act of false advertising.
- Consumer's fault, or
The consumer misunderstood the message of the advertisement, and falsely assumed things about the product.
- No intention to deceive.
The advertiser did not purposefully mean to deceive the consumer; it entails that he/she/they only advertised it the way the client wanted. Being unjustly accused and charged with committing the criminal offense of false advertising can significantly decrease the quality of one's life.
Aside from getting incarcerated and paying a costly fine, once convicted, a person can also have permanent criminal records. A tarnished criminal record can also lower the chances of employment and greatly decrease social and civil privileges. Not to mention how society's perspective will greatly affect the convict's reputation. His/her credibility as an advertising and/or marketing professional would be shamed and discredited. All those aforementioned conditions would result in having less than desirable living conditions. To avoid suffering from those, if you know anyone who ever had the misfortune of being wrongfully accused of false advertising, it would be his/her party's best interest to seek the aid or our credible attorneys. A pool of credible California defense lawyers that can provide high-quality legal assistance. They can help lessen the severity of, if not expunge the charges.
- Health & Safety Code 114087 – Mislabeling Food Products
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