Puffing business law refers to the act of exaggerating in order to sell a service or product and the legal ramifications involved. Most exaggerations in advertising go unchallenged, but there are cases in which the law can become involved.

What Is Puffing?

Simply put, puffing happens when a product is said to be better than it actually is. It isn't an outright lie, because puffing is based in the truth, but stretched. Advertisers will take the best parts of a business, service, property, product, or otherwise and blow them up to appear bigger than they actually are to make a profit. This is also called inflating the truth.

When puffing does involve a lie, legal action can be taken against the company. For example, you cannot advertise that a specific celebrity frequents your store if they've never been there, but you might advertise that celebrities frequent your store, even if only two have stopped by in the last five years. The latter statement is considered puffing.

Most people expect some level of puffing to happen during any sales transaction, so there usually isn't much on which to build a lawsuit. However, if the exaggeration takes things beyond the truth, there is sometimes ground for a case of truth in advertising.

What Is Puffery?

Puffery is simply another side of the puffing coin. The puffery is the ever-present tone of most sales interactions. Once you're used to certain sales environments, the puffery can become totally invisible.

Puffery is not the same as false advertising. Consumers are rarely considered duped by puffery, because it's usually assumed in different types of advertising and sales testimonials. The Federal Trade Commission views puffery as the exaggerated quality of a service or product. The idea is that the business is "puffing up" their products to make them more appealing.

One way that puffery is considered acceptable and not a case of false advertising is because it's usually in the form of subjective opinions.

Some sample wording includes:

  • "The best coffee in New York."
  • "Top of the line service."

When a coffee shop claims that it's the "best coffee in New York," they are saved by the fact that what is considered "best coffee" is a subjective concept. As long as claims about being the "best" or "number one" aren't said to be official or backed up by an official source, they are mostly ignored.

For instance, a car company can claim that their truck is the "best looking pickup on the market," but they cannot say that it's rated as the "best pickup" by J.D. Power unless it actually is. Otherwise, they could be sued for false advertising. Basically, most people don't think that a coffee shop has the best coffee in the state just because it says that on a sign, they recognize it as puffery even if they don't call it exactly that.

In most cases, puffing is legal. Even when consumers don't like it, there usually isn't much they can do about it legally. Even in a sales contract, the practice of one party exaggerating their position, expectations, or predictions for the success or value of something being sold is permissible by law.

Sometimes it's not clear whether or not you have a case, so if you believe you've been injured through false advertising, you'll want to get a lawyer involved. You can contact an experienced contract lawyer and explain the situation. They will likely be able to tell you the strength of your case.

Puffery isn't seen as a guarantee or warranty on the part of the seller, so they can't be held liable if the customer is disappointed. If you don't agree that your local coffee shop has the best coffee in the state, you cannot sue them based on their statement. There needs to be a basis for liability in order to have a legitimate case against a seller.

What Is False Advertising?

False representations or fraudulent representations are usually what people are referring to when they talk about "false advertising." This practice is punishable by law and is different from puffing or puffery. Lawsuits can be brought against companies for false representation by consumers themselves or by the Federal Trade Commission. A company's competitor can even bring suit against another if they find falsified information in their advertisements.

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