Is this company guilty of false advertising/misrepresentation? Can I do anything?
May 5, 2011 12:17 AM   Subscribe

Is this a simple case of "Buyer Beware" or is this company guilty of misrepresentation?

I signed up for a service online. I was very swayed by the nice website and especially because they had a prominent graphic that read "Customer Satisfaction" with 4.5 stars on it alongside the logo. I paid 100% for the service via credit card. The company never showed up. When I called to discuss, they were blase' and I got the service rep to agree to email a confirmation that my credit card would be credited a full refund.

After all this I checked their actual reviews on Amazon (yes, I know and realize that I should have done that initially) and I discovered that they have many many complaints similar to mine and the customer reviews are 1.5 star, not 4.5 stars. My question: Does the use of that misleading graphic constitute deceptive trade practices? I have been trying to understand where I should complain and how to craft my complaint. I don't think there will be a problem (now) getting the refund, but I was very inconvenienced by this company and in the "old days" companies were not allowed to claim false things in their advertising. Has that changed? Does the consumer have any recourse in this situation?
posted by naplesyellow to Law & Government (10 answers total)
I'm not clear, is your next planned step to craft another complaint to the delinquent company or Amazon? Or to some other entity?

If you purchased through Amazon and you're working with them to get your money back, everything should proceed smoothly when you tell them you didn't receive your order; you will not need to invoke "deceptive trade practices". If you purchased directly from the company, I would suggest that any company that would purposely mislead customers and not deliver services does not care about a deceptive graphic.

Your recourse in this situation is not based on false advertising, but on the simple fact that you paid for something you did not receive. If the company does not immediately refund your money after your next complaint (be sure to document it!), you should do a chargeback via your credit card company.

Keep in mind that shady companies often try to string customers along with false promises until the chargeback time period runs out - they'll keep telling you the refund is being processed, and they're receptive to your complaints, and it'll only take another week, etc. -- and before you know it you're ineligible for a chargeback and they stop taking your calls. So, if you are seeking a refund directly from the company, be sure to keep a close tab on when your chargeback period runs out (I think it's 30 days for most credit cards).
posted by lesli212 at 12:48 AM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I think your best bet would be to try to complain to Amazon. They would surely not be happy about it, if you can get the right person to hear your complaint.
posted by skewed at 12:49 AM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

I think lesli212 has the right advice as to how to get your refund - however I would let Amazon know that this company is lying about its Amazon rating. They might not do anything, but then again they have enough money to throw lawyers at the other company to get them to stop misrepresenting their rating, at least.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 1:25 AM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Call your credit card company and contest the charge. Amazon didn't have anything to do with this purchase, don't bother them with it, it is a waste of your time and, other than a revenge thing, unproductive.

Then do better homework before purchasing something... you took the company's word about the quality of their service, now you know better.
posted by tomswift at 3:12 AM on May 5, 2011

If you want a refund and don't get it, that's one thing. But claims about self-reported "customer satisfaction" are going to be pretty easy to characterize as "puffing" and thus not grounds for a deceptive advertising claim.

If an advertisement says that a particular good is for sale for a certain price, you can expect to get it for that price. But if the ad simply says "Crazy good deal!" well, that doesn't actually mean anything. Similarly, claiming that their customers like them, even sticking a number on said degree of liking, is the kind of thing that isn't going to ground an unfair trade practices claim as it doesn't make any objectively factual claim.

Your remedy is not to do business with them anymore.
posted by valkyryn at 5:45 AM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Call your credit card company and contest the charge. Amazon didn't have anything to do with this purchase, don't bother them with it, it is a waste of your time and, other than a revenge thing, unproductive.


just call your CC and revert the charge. very easy.
posted by zombieApoc at 6:01 AM on May 5, 2011

Best answer: Is it deceptive? Yes. Is it unethical? Yes. Should you spend much time worrying about it? Nope.

Seeing this company has a false image of their Amazon satisfaction rating, a letter or e-mail to Amazon should suffice. I'm quite sure that putting up a false star rating violates their Amazon agreement(s). Amazon might pay attention to this sort of thing, they might not.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 8:26 AM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: thank you all for your input. I appreciate it. The refund is forthcoming and I will follow your advice about chargeback.

My question has to do more with what they have done wrong and whether or not it is considered an illegal practice. It does not seem like a case of "puffing" (thanks valkyryn), because the "enhancement" of their Amazon rating is very specific and measurable. It wasn't just a "we're great" statement.

The company predominantly reports one rating (an excellent one) but in reality it is a terrible rating. In an ideal world I would like to be the person who gets them to remove that bold-faced lie from their home page. My question is about what steps I would take to do that. I understand that most of you would let this go and chalk it up to experience (and I might ultimately do that myself) but I also want to identify the agencies that regulate this sort of thing. Is it the Attorney General's office? Federal Trade Commission? I've gotten confused looking at their websites, because they seem more geared toward products than services. I agree with contacting Amazon and the major store that the company aligns itself with. Most people are inured to very poor treatment and then just relieved to get their money back, but this also a question about online misrepresentation false advertising. Back in the olden print days this sort of thing was completely illegal and there was recourse.

Thanks again for your help.
posted by naplesyellow at 9:17 AM on May 5, 2011

This is something that Amazon would have to deal with — I'm not an IP lawyer or a lawyer at all, but this seems like a trademark infringement in misrepresenting an endorsement from Amazon.
posted by klangklangston at 9:23 AM on May 5, 2011

It does not seem like a case of "puffing" (thanks valkyryn), because the "enhancement" of their Amazon rating is very specific and measurable. It wasn't just a "we're great" statement.

Perhaps, but unless the advertising contains some specific misrepresentation about your particular transaction, you might not have standing. Amazon probably would, because it's their name on the line, but misrepresenting something is not, in and of itself, grounds for a lawsuit unless that misrepresentation produces damages.

You do not appear to have suffered any damages, so there's not really a claim here.
posted by valkyryn at 10:33 AM on May 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

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