Last Updated 27 Jul 2020

Misleading and Deceptive Products and Practices Examined

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There are a number of laws on the books that prevent misleading and deceptive conduct by businesses. This is done to boost the protections for the consumers. While some may consider these rules to be burdensome, the fact remains that they greatly help both the consumer and the business entity alike. In earlier times in human history, the populace was greatly limited in terms of what types of products or services they could acquire. With the advent of the industrial revolution and the coming information age, all of this changed.

In the modern era, people can purchase a large variety of items in order to suit their needs. Then again, they can also purchase a great many items that can serve their leisure purposes. And, of course, any purchase of a product or service should come with the reasonable expectation that the product or service delivers on what it promises. In other words, the consumer should be able to get what he or she paid for. However, humans are not perfect creatures. Mistakes happen and faulty products make their way to the market.

This is unfortunate but understandable. Then, on the other side of the coin, there are those that may be willing to deliberately mislead a consumer public into purchasing something that might be a faulty, dangerous, or outright incompetent product or service. Why would a company issue such a product? Sadly, there are those unscrupulous individuals that wish to make a profit the easy way. They do so by seriously deceiving their consumers and, essentially, stealing money from them.

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These may sound like harsh words but they are not. Someone selling a weight loss product that not only will not help you lose weight in any manner is appropriating a consumer’s money in an unethical manner. When a consumer falsely advertisers something that will not yield the intended result while simultaneously presenting an adverse health risk, appropriate action needs to be taken. And honestly, the best action taken is preventive. In other words, proper laws need to be in place to dissuade such overtly unethical behavior.

So, what exactly is the definition of misleading or deceptive conduct? Are not all products guilty of exaggerating on their claims? Well, yes and no; the answer will depend upon how the advertising is performed. For example, when a detergent claims that it can get out stains completely and restore total whiteness to a fabric only to under-deliver, this is not so much deceptive advertising as much as it is a slight embellishment. In short, the detergent works and does get dirt and stains out.

The concept of ‘total whiteness’ is based on all the perfect factors coming together: a new shirt, what it has been stained with, how long it has been stained, the temperature of the water in which is was washed, the amount of detergent used, etc all become factors in whether or not the maximum efficiency can be procured from the detergent. This would not be misleading or deceptive since the detergent does work, after all. Outright misleading and deceptive advertisements, however, realize they are promising something that they cannot deliver.

The legendary “Grapefruit 45” diet of the 1980s is a perfect example of this. The product claimed that by taking a few capsules of a grapefruit supplement, one would lose weight while sleeping. The directions also stated one should not eat after 6pm. In time, it was revealed that the capsules contained nothing that would speed up the metabolism and that ceasing eating early in the evening would Misleading and Deceptive Products and Practices Examined – Page 2 lead to the body burning more stored fat while sleeping and it would do this with or without taking any supplements.

Grapefruit 45 was rightfully yanked off of store shelves since it was such a wholly deceptive and misleading product. Ultimately, customers should have a reasonable expectation that what they purchase delivers on expectations and is safe. There is no excuse for a product that does not deliver on such components. There are, however, arguments on the other side of the proverbial aisle that promote a reduction in the laws preventing misleading or deceptive conduct. Now, this is not to say that anyone wishes to see dangerous products on the market.

Rather, the concern is that excess government regulation beyond what is necessary can lead to significant decreases in a company’s ability to earn profits. Again, this is not put forth because lawmakers and lobbyists wish to see dangerous products in the market. (Well, the reasonable ones do not) Rather, it is because of fears regarding arbitrary overreach by regulating entities that improperly determine what is or is not misleading. This can lead to a number of unnecessary problems that both consumers and customers may face when seeking to procure the product or service that they would need to acquire.

Legitimate fears regarding government overreach are valid. Worries about the definition of “misleading practices” extending beyond acceptable common sense norms are also worthy of concern. However, it is also necessary to be concerned out the damage that can be done to entrepreneurs and businesses when they have to compete against an entity that is, for all intents and purposes, cheating in the marketplace. Yet, deception can be considered another word for cheating. While many will only look towards the consumer as the one that needs protection from deceptive ads, competitors will need protections as well.

After all, competitors have a right to a honest playing field. The establishment of rules that protect other businesses from unfair competition is a must. Why is this so vital? Imagine if completely false statements were made by a competitor in a series of misleading and deceptive ad campaign. Would this be fair to the business targeted in the ads? Would the false info be providing consumers with accurate information regarding where they should take their business? The honest assessment of this is that it would not. This is why businesses need help from a legal perspective in order to keep such unfair competition from rearing its head.

When a business is faced with a competitor that is – for lack of a better word – lying about the quality of his product or service, it creates a less than desirable scenario for the honest business operator. He/she must now go to great effort to compensate for the false advertisement that exists in the market. This could lead to expending a lot of time and money in order to draw attention back to their product. Yet, such a process could prove extremely difficult because it would be competing against a perpetually growing overstatement or lie. In short, misleading or deceptive practices create an unfair advantage in the consumer market.

Hence, such practices need to be curtailed to restore an honest playing field. In summation, laws and regulations that bar misleading or deceptive ads are certainly a positive thing. They protect the consumer and the competitor alike and level Misleading and Deceptive Products and Practices Examined – Page 3 out the playing field. They also keep business honest which, in turn, keeps the market a lot healthier as a result. Reference Anon. (2008). Is your ad deceptive? The Illinois Business Law Journal, Retrieved from http://iblsjournal. typepad. com/illinois_business_law_soc/2008/04/deceptive-adver. html

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