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What is a deceptive trade practice?

You often hear people complain that they were "oversold" on a product, meaning they were convinced it was better than it turned out to be after they bought it.

In some cases, this is fine. Companies always try to make their products sound as good as possible. As long as they're honest while doing so, that's generally not a problem. Some claims are also based on studies that may not apply to everyone. For instance, saying that most people prefer a product only means that 51 percent of people have to prefer it. Those who don't may feel misled, but the reality is just that they're in the 49 percent.

However, companies do sometimes cross the line, and that's when they run the risk of using deceptive trade practices. These are tactics meant to deceive people or lie to them directly. For example:

  • False advertising. The ads make unrealistic claims about the product, telling people it can do things it cannot do.
  • Tampering with odometers. A used-car salesman rolls the odometers back and says his cars have 50,000 miles when they really have 100,000 miles, artificially increasing their value.
  • Claiming products have approval or certifications that they don't have. This could be very important, for example, with medications or health supplements.
  • Selling used goods and claiming they are brand new. Even if they're lightly used, they are used.

Not all deceptive trade practices target end consumers. Small companies could also be targeted by larger corporations, for instance. When this happens, it is very important for all involved to know their legal options and what steps to take next.

Source: FindLaw, "Details on State Deceptive Trade Practices," accessed Jan. 05, 2018

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