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False Advertising and Misrepresentation in Wisconsin – Deceptive Trade Practices, Pepsi Points, and Harrier Jets

As any nerdy lawyer would, I did a little looking into Wisconsin’s consumer protections against false advertising and misrepresentations after getting sucked into Netflix’s recently released “Pepsi, Where’s My Jet?”  Without ruining the ending of the documentary for anyone who has yet to watch, it’s safe to say that Wis. Stat. 100.18, Wisconsin’s Deceptive Trade Practices Act, provides relatively clear direction for advertisers/sellers and robust protections for Wisconsin consumers, including businesses that rely on others' advertising and representations.

According to the statute, no “person, firm, corporation or association, or agent or employee thereof,” can publish or circulate an advertisement, announcement, statement, or any representation which is untrue, deceptive, or misleading, if the intent is to sell, distribute, or increase consumption of any product, good, or service offered that person or company.  Wis. Stat. sec. 100.18(1).  Keep in mind that, extra protections exist for insurance businesses (the section does not apply to them) or licensed real estate brokers or salespeople (they cannot be held liable under the statute unless it is proven they have directly made or disseminated an untrue, deceptive or misleading statement of fact with the knowledge that it is untrue).

In the end, Wisconsin consumers will have to prove that the representation made in the advertisement or offer “was untrue, deceptive or misleading.” Consumers can look to Wisconsin’s Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection to investigate and enforce the Act. However, consumers can also speak with an attorney to determine if they might have a viable claim for a private cause of action. To recover under a private cause of action, the consumer must prove that a pecuniary loss was sustained as a result of the untrue, deceptive or misleading statement-- essentially, proving that the consumer would not have acted without that representation and they relied on it to their financial detriment.

Whether you think you’ve been offered a Harrier jet for an incredible deal or your company feels that it’s being wrongly accused of misrepresenting its offerings, our office is able to help you discern how the law applies. No one wants to be accused of fraudulent activity or feel like they were defrauded.  It’s always good to consult an attorney if you have questions about how to proceed under your particular circumstances or how to defend under federal law or the laws of other states. If you have a question, feel free to reach out. Otherwise, happy offering and happy shopping!


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