Certain business practices are considered "deceptive" (not merely misleading) and thus prohibited by state laws. Examples include bait-and-switch schemes and rolling back a used car's odometer. Ohio deceptive trade practice laws prohibit false advertising, auto odometer tampering, and other shady business practices.
The main provisions of Ohio deceptive trade practice laws are highlighted in the following chart, with additional background and information below it.
|Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act Adopted||Adopted with modifications (Ch. 4165); (overlaps with Uniform Consumer Sales Practice Act (§1345.01-13)|
|False Advertising Forbidden||Yes (§4165.02)|
|Who May Bring Suit||Attorney general; class actions; person likely to be damaged (§4165.03) (§1345.07) (§1345.09)|
|Remedies Available||Civil penalty of not more than $25,000 if practice found to be unfair, deceptive, etc. (§1345.07); injunction; actual damages and attorney's fees (§4165.03); other remedies as available at common law and other statutes (§1345.09)|
|Auto Odometer Tampering Forbidden||Yes (§§4549.42, 46, 49); 3 times the amount of actual damages or $1,500, whichever is greater and attorney's fees and costs|
Deceptive Trade Practice Basics
Ohio's prohibition on deceptive trade practices generally focus on business practices that are fraudulent or borderline fraudulent. Generally, these practices are designed to lure customers into a store for a deal that they will not find, or sell something that is not what it seems. Ohio's deceptive practices law is very comprehensive, and the following are some common examples.
A business commits false advertising when it makes untrue factual representations in an advertisement. These misrepresentations can be about the good or service advertised, or disparaging and untrue facts about a competitor's product or service. One example is a car company advertising that the car gets better fuel economy than it actually does.
Bait and Switch
The bait and switch is type of consumer scam that may be hard to detect. The store or business will offer advertise an item or service for a certain price, but when the customer comes in for that service or product, it is unavailable. "Conveniently", the business has a similar item for sale for a higher price or a lesser quality than the advertised product.
Changing Odometer Readings
Ohio's vehicle code makes it a crime to tamper with the odometer of a car. If the odometer needs to be replaced, it must be replaced with an odometer that has and equal or greater mileage, or subsequent purchasers need to be notified of the lower odometer reading before purchase.
Deceptive pricing includes holding "sales" that are not actually sales. An unscrupulous seller may have a "regular" price that is not ever charged, with the intent on always holding a sale for that item. For example, a seller has a shirt marked as $15, with a sign that says 33% off. The seller always intended on selling the shirt for $10, but wants people to believe that they are getting a better deal than they actually are.
A seller may advertise an extremely low price for an item, just to get customers into the store. However, the seller only has a small number of those items, and expects them to sell out, while the advertisement will still bring customers into the store.
If you would like to know more about Ohio's deceptive trade practice laws, there are many attorneys throughout the state with consumer protection experience who may be able to help.
Contact a qualified attorney.