Advertising is a part of the business world. Every single year, small businesses throughout California dedicate hundreds of thousands of dollars to promotion. Every single year, a handful of these businesses get caught engaging in false advertising.
False advertising is illegal in California. While it might seem harmless to the people who are engaged in the act, after all, they’re simply trying to drive people to their business, they’re not actually hurting anyone, the simple reality is that false advertising is a type of fraud.
The topic of false advertising in California is discussed in the Business and Professions Code 17500 BPC. It clearly states 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.”
False advertising cases might seem like they would be cut and dry, but many aren’t. It’s not unusual for a consumer to report false advertising when a product doesn’t work exactly the way they expect it to, only for the court to determine that there was just enough truth in the advertising to negate the false advertising charge.
For the prosecution to secure a false advertising charge, the prosecution must prove that the business owner deliberately and maliciously made false claims about a product to mislead consumers and drive sales.
When looking at a false advertising case, the prosecutor must be confident that they can successfully prove that the company not created false advertising but that they also knew the advertising misrepresented the product/service.
Individuals who are convicted of false advertising are guilty of a misdemeanor. The incident leaves them with a criminal record but since a felony wasn’t committed, the conviction won’t impact their ability to own a firearm.
The maximum sentence a judge can set for a false advertising conviction is up to six months in a county jail and/or a $2,500 fine. In most cases, the individual/business that has a false advertising conviction will also face civil charges.