What is misleading & deceptive conduct?
There is a very broad provision in the Australian Consumer Law that prohibits conduct by a corporation that is misleading or deceptive, or would be likely to mislead or deceive you.
It makes no difference whether the business intended to mislead or deceive you—it is how the conduct of the business affected your thoughts and beliefs that matters.
If the overall impression left by an advertisement, promotion, quotation, statement or other representation made by a business creates a misleading impression in your mind—such as to the price, value or the quality of any goods and services—then the conduct is likely to breach the law.
As well as the broad provision of the Australian Consumer Law that prohibits misleading and deceptive conduct in general (see above), there are also some specific provisions.
For example, the law also says businesses must not make false claims about:
- the quality, style, model or history of a good or service
- whether the goods are new
- the sponsorship, performance characteristics, accessories, benefits and uses of goods and services
- the availability of repair facilities or spare parts
- the place of origin of a good (for example, where it was made or assembled)
- a buyer’s need for the goods or services
- any exclusions on the goods and services.
If a business makes a false or misleading claim or representation about one of the issues on this list, then the conduct is likely to breach the law.
What is ‘puffery’? Is ‘puffery’ misleading?
Puffery is a term used to describe wildly exaggerated, fanciful or vague claims for a product or service that nobody could possibly treat seriously, and that nobody could reasonably be misled by. Examples of puffery include ‘best food in town’ or ‘freshest taste ever’.
Puffery in advertising is a practice that is generally not prohibited by the Australian Consumer Law.