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California Deceptive Trade Practices Laws

Deceptive trade practices are characterized by disinformation, false claims, and other tactics to lure the public into buying a product or service. One example is a used car dealer tampering with the odometer in order to falsely claim lower mileage. California has not adopted the Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act, but has laws specifically prohibiting false advertising and odometer tampering. If you would like to know more about deceptive business practices, the following article covers those issues for California.

Below are the basics of California deceptive trade practices law in table and summary form. See Details on State Deceptive Trade Practices and Fair Advertising FAQ: A Guide for Small Business to learn more.

Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act Adopted No
False Advertising Forbidden Yes (Bus. & Prof. §17500 et seq.)
Who May Bring Suit Attorney general; district attorney or other prosecuting attorney may bring suit for injunctive and civil penalties (Bus & Prof. §17535); any individual may bring suit for injunction or restitution (Bus. & Prof. §17203)
Remedies Available Violation of provision misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in county jail not exceeding 6 months or a fine not exceeding $2500/both. (Bus. & Prof. §17500) May be both imprisoned and fined.
Auto Odometer Tampering Forbidden Yes (Veh. C. §28050, et seq.); misdemeanor (Veh. §40000.15)

False Advertising

False advertising can come in a number of forms. All of them open the advertiser to potential lawsuits, from both unsatisfied customers as a civil suit, or the government, as criminal charges. California state law makes it illegal to be untrue or misleading in advertisements for goods and services. The following are common forms of illegal misrepresentations:

Deceptive Pricing: This may come in the form of a false "sale." For example, a business wants to sell chairs for $50 each. The business posts the price as $100 for two days, and then holds a "sale" for 50% off for $50 with the intention of selling for that price all along.

Bait and Switch: A seller offers an item at a very low price in order to lure in potential customers. When the customers arrive, the low-priced item is not available, but another similar higher priced item is available.

Low Stock: This is similar to a bait and switch. The seller advertises a low price for an item, but only has a few in stock. The seller hopes to bring in customers based on the low price item, and sell the customers a higher priced item.

Odometer Tampering

California's vehicle code also prohibits tampering with an odometer. Unscrupulous car sellers may want to make a car seem like it has lower mileage than it actually does. As well, it is illegal to unplug an odometer for the purpose of not calculating mileage, sell a car with more mileage than is reflected by the odometer, or sell a device that reduces mileage on an odometer.

If you would like to know more about deceptive trade practices in California, you may want to speak with a consumer protection attorney in your area . As trade practice law differs from state to state, only a California attorney will be able to answer consumer protection questions for advertising or questionable business actions in California.

Next Steps
Contact a qualified attorney.
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