The New York statute General Business Law section 350 seeks to protect consumers from companies' false advertising of goods and services. Our New York City false advertising lawyers have used this law, namely in the context of a class action, to attack the misrepresentations a company would use in their advertising to lure consumers to purchase their product or service, for the consumer to discover only later that he/she was duped in the transaction. In the meantime, the consumer, having been induced into the purchase by relying on the advertising, may have gained little to no benefit from the service or product or worse, they are in a worse position than before purchase.
Successful prosecution under this false advertising statute should yield the award of attorney’s fees and costs of the lawsuit. GBL 350 is known as a “fee-shifting” statute: a consumer is entitled to have his/her attorney’s fees and costs paid for by the company perpetrating the false advertising. This is crucial when the actual damages due to the false advertising may be minor for the one loan consumer, making individual prosecution of the case economically infeasible.
Money damages from false advertising can be significant to the point of devastating. While we are all guaranteed freedom of speech from the US Constitution, that right does not exempt false and misleading advertising from potential civil liability. Freedom of speech is a constitutional guarantee, which includes commercial speech. Nowadays perhaps more than ever in our history, freedom of speech includes speech that some people might consider offensive, fighting words or even “fake news.” However, the laws of false advertising is meant to redress an intentional or negligent misrepresentation when a company uses it to entice a consumer out of his/her money. The New York statute cited above is a vehicle meant to level the playing field: to provide as close to an honest marketplace as consumers can have.
Defendants fighting back against a plaintiff and their New York City false advertising attorney will often claim the defense that the advertising is an expression of opinion and not an expression of fact; that the ad was mere “puffery” and the consumer has to beware of language if he/she is viewing it and acting upon it reasonably. The issue of opinion v. fact can be determined by a judge or jury as trier of fact.
Oftentimes, misleading statements from a company or person come in the form of misrepresentations as to quality of a product or service, timing of delivery, warranty, prices, and numerous other aspects to lure a consumer to buy. Other examples can include deceptive labeling, claims above “puffery” or simple opinions about a product or service, bait-and-switch scams, highly bloated sales tactics, and the failure to disclose important information.
It is unfortunately not often that an advertiser tells the full truth about a product or service, especially as to facts that a consumer cannot always verify him/herself even with some due diligence. The normal consumer cannot verify what services are necessary to settle an IRS tax debt, what ingredients are in a medicinal product or what specific results can be gained from a stock or other investment. Customers have a reasonable right to trust advertising regarding product information, and the false advertising lawyers at our New York City firm are here to help them enforce that right.
Perhaps the worst victimization of consumers comes with the infamous “fine print.” We at the Firm have seen so many uses and abuses of fine print that companies engage in to weasel out liability for a myriad of transactions. Fine print usually contains a disclaimer or a consumer’s waiver of liability of a substantial right.
Benjamin Hart, P.C. files and defends false advertising claims in New York City’s five boroughs, including New York, Brooklyn, Queens, Kings, Bronx, Staten Island (Richmond ) counties, Long Island’s Nassau & Suffolk Counties, Westchester, Orange, Rockland and certain up-state New York counties.