California Business & Professions Code Section 17500 BPC: Making False Or Misleading Statements In Advertising

1. Definition and Elements of the Crimemisleading advertising

While businesses have always been known to engage in a certain amount of puffery when promoting and advertising their products, making false or misleading statements in advertising can potentially lead to both criminal and civil penalties. Under California Business and Professions Code Section 17500, making false or misleading statements in advertising is a criminal offense that can result in jail sentences.

In order to prove that a person or organization is guilty of making false or misleading statements in advertising, a prosecutor would have to prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. The defendant was a person, firm, corporation or association, or any employee thereof

  2. The defendant acted with intent, directly or indirectly

  3. The defendant disposed of real or personal property, or performed services, professional or otherwise, or anything of any nature whatsoever OR the defendant advertised by means of newspaper or other publication or any advertising device, or by public outcry or proclamation, the disposition of real or personal property, or performed services, professional or otherwise

  4. AND the defendant, firm, corporation or association induced the public to enter into an obligation whereby statements and/or claims were misleading or untrue.
2. Related Offenses

Other similar or related offenses include:

  1. False Statement Regarding Gasoline – California Business and Professions Code Section 13413 BPC
  2. Inaccurate Pricing – California Business and Professions Code Section 12024.2 BPC
  3. False Advertising Regarding Gasoline – California Business and Professions Code Section 13532(a) BPC
3. Examples

A man is employed as a hairdresser. The man posts an online advertisement stating that he will give free haircuts to the first five people that show up at his shop on a particular date. The man does not think the promotion will get any attention, however he is surprised when he finds a line of people waiting outside of his shop on the date in question. The man refuses to honor the free haircut quoted in the advertisement, but offers to cut everyone’s hair for half price. This man could be charged with making false or misleading statements in advertising in violation of California Business and Professions Code Section 17500 BPC.

In another example, a plumber takes out an advertisement in the local newspaper. In the ad, he touts his expertise and refers to himself as the area’s best plumber. A man hires the plumber based on the advertisement and the plumber ends up doing a poor job. The man hires a different plumber to fix the mistakes. The second plumber tells the customer that the first plumber has a poor reputation in the community and is no way the best. The first plumber would not be guilty under California Business and Professions Code Section 17500 BPC because a certain level of puffery is allowed in advertising. Simply calling oneself the best would not violate the statute.

In a third example, a man wants to place an advertisement in the newspaper offering to sell his television set for $500. When submitting the advertisement, the man makes a typo and writes $50 instead of $500. Several interested parties respond to the ad in hopes of getting a television for a very low price but are rebuffed when the man explains the typo. This man would not be criminally liable under California Business and Professions Section 17500 BPC because he did not act intentionally and the false advertisement occurred as the result of an inadvertent typo.

4. Defenses to Making False or Misleading Statements in Advertising

As described above, if the defendant’s false or misleading statements were unintentional, he or she would not be guilty under California Business and Professions Code Section 17500 BPC.

5. Penalties

Someone convicted of making false or misleading statements in advertising can be sentenced to up to six months in jail or by a $2,500 fine, or both.

6. Criminal Defense for Making False or Misleading Statements in Advertising Cases

If you have been charged with making false or misleading statements in professional advertising, it is imperative that you speak with a Los Angeles Criminal Defense immediately. As a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience, Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Michael Kraut is highly skilled at defending professionals charged with white collar offenses such as this.

For more information about making false or misleading statements in advertising, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1480, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.

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