P.T. Barnum is often attributed with saying “there’s a sucker born every minute” in reference to his selling an illusion of fact and intrigue despite neither of those elements actually existing in his product. While such a statement might be seen as being harmless in the whimsical world or entertainment, it is certainly considered to be so in business. The Charleston businesses and companies advertising their goods and services to you are expected to supply what they promise. If you engage in (or attempt to engage in) a transaction based on an advertised promise yet the expectation inferred in an advertisement is not met, are you then the victim of false advertising?
Some might say that the promises made in advertisements are subjective. Fortunately, the law has established criteria to determine when false advertising has indeed occurred. According to the West Virginia Legislature, it begins be defining advertising as any content (whether spoken, written, televised or published) created with the intent to induce you into consummating a commercial transaction. State law expressly prohibits any deceptive practices related to business. Those that specifically refer to advertising include:
- Causing confusion as to the source, sponsorship, association or geographic origin of goods or services
- Representing used, deteriorated, reclaimed or reconditioned products as new
- Advertising goods or service with the intent to not sell them as promised or to not supply enough to meet expectable demand
- The intentional concealment of any fact that might otherwise deter you and others from buying a product
- Promises to sale good or extend credit that are false or omit material information regarding qualifications and eligibility
Keep in mind that these facts must be proven. A simple disagreement over advertised promises might not be enough to qualify for consumer protection from false advertising.