Puffery Laws

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What is Puffery?

“Puffery” is an exaggerated or extravagant statement made for the purpose of attracting buyers to a particular product or service.  It is commonly used in connection with advertising and promotional sales testimonials.  The Federal Trade Commission defines puffery as a term referring to exaggerations of the quality of a product.

Puffery is often employed by business to “puff up” the image of their product.  Statements or terms of puffery are usually subjective opinions rather than objective representations of facts. 

It is assumed that most consumers would recognize puffery as an opinion that cannot be verified.  Most reasonable persons would not take puffery literally.  The difference between puffery and factual representations is the degree of specificity of the claim.  Puffery contains broad, general claims, as in the motto “The Best Chicken in the West”.     

Is Puffery Prohibited by Law?

No. Puffery is allowed to a degree and is not prohibited by most advertising laws.  Generally, a business or seller cannot be held liable for misrepresentation if they issue a statement that amounts to mere puffery or “puffing."  Also, statements of puffery cannot be considered as creating an express guarantee or warranty.

The reason why puffery is not prohibited is that most courts consider puffing to be so immaterial and unreliable that it cannot form the basis for liability.  However, if the statement does contain a specific misrepresentation or an outright lie, the consumer may hold the seller liable for violations such as false advertising or fraudulent representation

What is the Difference between Puffery and False Advertising?

As mentioned, puffery is allowed to a limited degree by most trade and commerce laws.  On the other hand, false advertising is a crime and may be punishable according to both civil and criminal laws. 

In order to prove false advertising, it must be shown that the statement or representation was deceptive.  False advertisement is motivated by a desire to deceive or mislead the public.  On the other hand, puffery is usually a matter of opinion rather than a factual representation.  The aim of puffery is simply to attract more consumers rather than to purposely deceive. 

However, the line between puffery and false advertisement can be a tricky one.  Therefore, businesses that are making representations about their goods or services should take care to avoid statements that are false, deceptive, or misleading. 

Should I Contact a Lawyer if I have Issues Regarding a Statement of Puffery?

If you feel that you have been wrongfully affected by a statement, you may wish to consult with a lawyer.  An experienced attorney can represent in court and advise you on whether a representation is mere puffery or a serious misrepresentation.  Also, if you are a business entity or a seller of products, you may also wish to contact a lawyer.  Your attorney can review your statements and representations to determine whether they fall within the boundaries of law. 

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Last Modified: 04-07-2014 09:40 AM PDT

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