Lying about services or products to scam money off of people is as old as the hills. It cheats people out of their hard earned money and generally drives the cost of living up. Consequently, most states have had some type of regulations against false advertising since the 1910’s, and the FTC has national jurisdiction over them. As a consumer, though, you want to know what to look for.

What Is False Advertising

It’s straight-forward: customers should know what they are buying and how much it really costs. False advertising are advertising statements that deceive or mislead potential customers about products and services.

Types of False Advertising

The Lantham Act of 1946 is the law that is generally used here. It divides false advertisements into 3 groups.

  1. Failure to Disclose

 A company has to include all the material facts in their representations, although it doesn’t require complete disclosure and judges have a lot of wiggle room when deciding how much disclosure is enough. Failure to disclose covers both misstatements and statements that are somewhat true, but misleading because of what they leave out.

  1. Flawed and Insignificant Research

  Businesses are not allowed to use flimsy research in their advertisements. They can’t make claims that are “contradicted by prevailing authority or research” or are “unsupported by research.”

  1. Product Disparagement

Competitors are not allowed to misrepresent or discredit each other’s product. In fact, the Lantham Act was expanded in 1988 to include other people’s product.


At a practical level, false advertising crops up in a bunch of forms.

This is where advertisements compare their products to competitors in a misleading way. They choose to compare their product to another one only in the areas where their product is superior and leave out areas where they aren’t.

This is the dreaded ‘add-on’ fee. Companies bury additional fees on to services and products in the fine print, sometimes in separate pages, where the customer won’t see them. This makes the product much more expensive than advertised.

Companies can sometimes claim to sell a service or product in order to get people in their doors, and then ‘switch’ to selling what they actually sell. This can take the form of advertising a thing which they are always mysteriously ‘out’ of or offering a product that then turns out to be inferior.

This is the children’s cereal trick: the company presents a picture of a product along with other items that are not part of the package. They manipulate the pictures to make their products look better than they are and package them to hide their real appearance.

Companies have gotten in trouble for claiming that a product is on sale or marked down, when the product is actually being sold at full price. They can claim to sell 2 products for the price of one, and then include the price of the second item. It’s lying about the price of a thing.

Companies sometimes claim their stuff is ‘made in America,’ when it is more like ‘assembled in America after all the parts were made in China.’ And sometimes they just straight up lie, claiming a product is ‘high quality,’ when such a statement is completely unsubstantiated. They fail to mention defects that they know their product has, too.

Examples of False Advertising

Corinthian Colleges and its subsidiaries, Wyotech, Heald, and Everest

Between 2009 and 2013, the colleges misrepresented the likelihood of their graduates getting jobs with degrees from them. They inflated the rate of job placement in their advertisements to convince desperate people to take out loans for a college degree they couldn’t use.

They advertised that they offered x-ray, radiology, dialysis, and ultrasound technician programs when, in fact, they didn’t offer these programs in California. The executives at Corinthian Colleges knew that people would enroll in their school because of those advertisements.

The Attorney General’s Office got a $1.1 billion judgement from Corinthian in March of 2016.

Ralston Purina Company

Ralston claimed that their food was good for dogs with hip dysplasia. The company cited tests that were flawed, rigged, and skewed, and yet still only got statistically insignificant results.

Purina sued them and they lost to them. They had to take the advertisements down.

What You Can Do About It

Most states have laws against false advertising that rely on standards set by the FTC. You can file a complaint with the FTC and your state. The state of California has forms you can fill out at and the California Department of Business Oversight takes complaints against businesses.

You can also sue, but you will have to prove a couple of things. You will have to prove that a false statement was made about a product, it deceived people in a way that would influence their purchasing decisions, and that the deception hurts people. If you manage that prove all that, you can get injunctive relief and damages, and the judge may make the offending company take out corrective advertising.
If you have been cheated by false advertising, contact Aiman-Smith & Marcy,  a boutique law firm in California that specializes in consumer protection and employment cases, as well as class action lawsuits.

Lisseth Bayona


Education and Background

I am a Los Angeles native and daughter of Salvadorian immigrants. From an early age, my parents instilled the value of hard work and education in me and my two siblings. Their perseverance enabled each of us to graduate from college and earn professional degrees.

My interest and commitment to workers’ rights have roots in my parents’ experiences as undocumented workers in Los Angeles. Witnessing the challenges they faced inspired me to pursue a career where I can help individuals confronted with similar struggles. To help someone in those moments is very satisfying. I love connecting with people and learning about their stories. I believe that dignity in the workplace is a right of all workers, not a convenience or privilege reserved for employees of a certain race, gender, age, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Legal Experience

I received my J.D. from the University of Southern California (USC) Gould School of Law. While there, I served as a judicial extern to the Honorable Patrick J. Walsh of the United States District Court for the Central District of California, where I drafted a criminal judicial opinion. Also, while at Gould, I served as an extern for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. As a Criminal Division Extern, I had the opportunity to work closely with a trial team of Assistant U.S. Attorneys on a money laundering case which further sparked my interest in litigation.

Personal Interests

In my free time, I enjoy urban vegetable gardening, traveling, and spending time with my nephew and niece. I also love to spend time at San Onofre Beach learning to surf, although admittedly, I am not very good.



Hallie L. Von Rock

Attorney (SBN 233152)

Education and Background

I moved to the Bay Area from Washington after graduating high school. I had been accepted to UC Berkeley through a program where I could defer for two years while getting my California residency and attending community college, which was significant since I was paying for college on my own. I began working for Randall Aiman-Smith and Reed Marcy in 1996 as an office manager while taking night classes. My first foray into the legal world was soon after starting at the firm when I was ready to transfer to UC Berkeley. Rather than accepting my resident status, the Board of Regents took the position that California residency required a student to be in California “two calendar years.” Randall and Reed took up my case with the same verve as they helped their actual clients and I got the chance to comb through the UC Berkeley library to read their codes and regulations to support my position. In that experience, I learned what is was like to feel helpless against a big organization and then to have dedicated attorneys in my corner to take up my cause.

After a break to pursue my major in art history, I went to UC Hastings College of Law and continued working with Randall and Reed. Having worked together now for over 25 years, we have a unique ability to work collaboratively and finish each other’s sentences. I have strived throughout my career to make a difference in the lives of our clients. At the end of the day, if I am helping someone to get compensation for losses they suffered, then I know that all the work put into a case has been worth it.

Legal Experience

I have extensive experience in civil litigation and class action cases, including conducting discovery and depositions, calculating damages analysis, preparing motions for certification, writing appellate documents, and overseeing claims administration. We have handled several class actions against retailers where plaintiffs claimed they were forced to purchase clothing to wear to work and were not compensated for these purchases, including against Abercrombie & Fitch, Hugo Boss, Armani Exchange, Uniqlo, Dollar Tree, and Ross. Recently, I was trial counsel in a defamation claim against Bank of America on behalf of a former employee who claimed the Bank blacklisted her with future employers. The jury found Bank of America liable, including for punitive damages.

Personal Interests

Aiman-Smith & Marcy has sponsored me in the Boston Marathon and New York Marathon. When I race, I often wear a “Rockstar Ronan” shirt to support research for childhood cancer through The Ronan Thompson Foundation.


University of California, Berkeley, B.A., 1999

Hastings College of the Law, University of California, J.D., 2004

Randall Aiman-Smith

Abogado (SBN 124599)

Aiman-Smith & Marcy. Oakland consumer fraud attorneys.

Educación y antecedentes

Fui afortunado. A pesar de no haber terminado la escuela secundaria o la universidad, pude -aunque con mucho trabajo- ser admitido y sobresalir en una de las mejores escuelas de derecho del país: La Facultad de Derecho de la Universidad de Berkeley. Mientras estuve allí, tuve el privilegio de ser editor de la California Law Review y miembro del Moot Court Board, asesorando en la redacción de escritos y en la defensa de apelaciones a otros estudiantes. Después de salir de la escuela de derecho, en mis primeros años de práctica, enseñé la escritura legal y la defensa de apelación en la Universidad de California, Hastings College of the Law. También, a lo largo de los años, he sido presentador en eventos de educación legal continua.

Experiencia legal

He sido abogado durante 35 años. He dedicado mi práctica exclusivamente a representar a empleados, consumidores e inversores en los tribunales estatales y federales de primera instancia y en los tribunales de apelación. Me gusta ir a los tribunales por mis clientes y he llevado muchos casos con jurado en los tribunales estatales y federales.

¿Ejemplos? En 2010, fui la abogada principal, junto con los otros abogados del bufete, en el caso Williams v. Union Pacific Railroad donde, después de cuatro años de preparación, el bufete obtuvo un veredicto del jurado de 1.670.000 dólares para una empleada afroamericana. En Rivero v. Surdyka, fui el abogado principal en el juicio y la apelación de un caso de derechos civiles que duró 15 años, incluyendo un juicio completo y tres apelaciones al Noveno Circuito, concluyendo finalmente con una sentencia para los demandantes de más de 2.300.000 dólares. Estos casos ilustran el lema del bufete: compromiso – resultados. Hay que comprometerse con un caso, a veces durante mucho tiempo, para obtener el resultado que el cliente merece.

No siempre ganamos en el juicio. Cuando eso ocurre, el compromiso significa llevar el caso al siguiente nivel y recurrirlo. En el caso Rivero, antes mencionado, eso fue lo que ocurrió: el tribunal desestimó el caso -habíamos perdido- pero apelamos y conseguimos una victoria para nuestros clientes que mantuvimos a través de dos apelaciones más. Desde entonces, el bufete ha conseguido muchas victorias en apelación que reivindican los derechos de los empleados y los consumidores.

A lo largo de los años he sido abogado de los demandantes en numerosos casos individuales y acciones colectivas. Puede sonar cursi, o difícil de creer, pero después de todo este tiempo, y después de todas las grandes experiencias que he tenido, mi parte favorita de ser abogado es cuando consigo dar un cheque a mi cliente.



Facultad de Derecho, Universidad de California, Berkeley, J.D., 1986