Advertising can be the lifeblood of any business. A good campaign can establish your brand, bring in new customers and enhance loyalty to your products or services. But if handled improperly, it can also place you in legal jeopardy or embroil your business in costly litigation.
What does Florida law say?
Florida Statute Section 817.41 makes it illegal for any person or entity to present any misleading advertising to the public. Doing so is considered to be fraud, undertaken for the purpose of gaining money or property. The medium used for the advertising doesn’t really matter – it can be in print, video, voice or any combination of them.
The subject of the false advertising can be real property, goods or service and can relate to most any aspect of the advertisement. Misleading statements about price, quantity or quality can violate the statute, as can those regarding availability, financing or warranties. It is the intent behind the advertising, and its truthfulness, which is relevant to determining whether it violates the law.
Common examples of deceptive advertising include bait-and-switch campaigns, designed to attract customers with lower-priced items while selling them higher-priced items. High-pressure sales tactics can also run afoul of the law, when a seller pressures customers into buying goods or services they neither want nor need. Artificially inflating prices and refusing to sell something at the advertised price can also place a business in legal jeopardy.
The law allows a certain level of aggressive advertising and it is often those which straddle the line that result in litigation. Distinguishing between an advertising campaign which legally uses hyperbolic language to promote something, and that which crosses the line into outright falsehood, can be exceedingly difficult. It must be done on a case-by-case basis, with a thorough review of the facts and circumstances surrounding the advertisement.