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Can You Sue Over Deceptive Holiday 'Deals'?

By Aditi Mukherji, JD | Last updated on

To keep up with consumer demand for massive holiday deals and discounts on Black Friday, many retailers have begun to offer "fake discounts."

In cahoots with their suppliers, these businesses set starting prices that, after all the markdowns, will yield the profit margins they want -- but still give customers the impression of a blowout sale, according to The Wall Street Journal.

But fake holiday discounts and deals can potentially constitute a deceptive business practice. Here are five Black Friday discount schemes that shoppers may be able to sue over:

  1. Fake promises. In most states, it's against the law for businesses to make an offer with no intention of honoring the offer. Groupon was recently sued for bait-and-switch advertising when it allegedly lured customers in with promises of certain Groupon coupons that didn't actually exist.
  2. Faulty "low-price guarantees." It's common for retailers to offer "low-price guarantees" but a number of stores deliberately create their own names and model numbers for their merchandise to make it impossibly difficult for you to shop and compare. This scheme can count as deceptive advertising if it's designed to mislead consumers.
  3. Artificially high markups. Many retailers excessively hike up the prices of merchandise just so they can mark it down and make it seem like shoppers are getting a huge deal (the operative phrase here being "seem like"). But according to the Federal Trade Commission, practices like exaggerating former price and competitor price comparisons can constitute deceptive pricing.
  4. Bogus "BOGO" deals. "Buy one, get the second one free" deals are increasingly common ploys businesses use to get consumers to purchase extra items. But if a business fails to specify whether it's a true "BOGO" sale or if each item is actually 50 percent off -- you could take the retailer to court for failing to make proper disclosures about its "BOGO" deal.
  5. Teeny tiny fine print. If you're getting short-changed on a deal because you didn't read the fine print, you may have a case for deceptive advertising. In general, the FTC requires disclosures to be conspicuously placed so that consumers will actually notice it. Densely packed lines of fine print, footnotes, and fast-scrolling disclosures often don't meet this obligation.

To find out if you have a legal claim for your Black Friday holiday "deal," consider consulting an experienced consumer protection attorney.

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