A Columbus, Ohio, Consumer Law Attorney Discusses Fraudulent Misrepresentation
The Legal Information Institute of the Cornell University Law School offers this test for determining whether a person can sue a company or service provider for fraudulent misrepresentation:
- The seller made a statement or claim regarding a product or action.
- The statement was not true, and its falseness can be proved.
- The seller knew the statement was false or behaved recklessly by making no effort to determine whether it was true.
- The seller misrepresented facts with the intent of having the plaintiff rely on the false statement.
- The buyer believed and/or acted on the false or incomplete information.
- The buyer suffered harm.
Each of the terms in that general definition could be further defined in almost endless ways and to almost infinite degrees, but the take-home message is that no organization or person taking money from consumers can lie about or omit information that would protect a consumer’s rights, interests, and well-being. Being dishonest or less-than-honest in describing items leaves businesses and individuals liable to lawsuits.
Understand How Misrepresentations Cause Harm
Points that do merit a little further explanation when it comes to filing a consumer protection lawsuit on the grounds of misrepresentation involve what constitutes harm and who can be named as a defendant party in a lawsuit. First, harms can take the form of financial losses, physical injuries, emotional distress, property damage, and loss of employment or reputation. A real-world example of a misrepresentation that caused multiple types of harm involved intentionally misstating the quality and performance of safety equipment. Purchasers of the defective products could get injured or die when they relied on the equipment, and representatives of organizations that purchased the equipment in bulk could get fired for not meeting their responsibilities to ensure co-workers’ health. The chain of negative consequences was set in motion when the manufacturers of the equipment and its sales representatives covered up evidence of poor performance during quality testing. Although most misrepresentations do not involve such devastating consequences, it is important that sellers be held to account for misrepresentations that result in only small economic loss to consumers. Holding advertisers responsible for their misrepresentations fosters truth in marketing and reduces the temptation that an advertiser may have to make a misrepresentation that results in a $1 loss to millions of consumers.
Misrepresentation Takes Many Forms
Most businesses and service providers do not make fraudulent misrepresentations as part of their normal operations. Still, any commercial exchange can be skewed to the disadvantage of a consumer by dishonesty and misinformation. Just a few of the types of misrepresentation that put customers in danger of suffering harm include:
- Advertising products or services that cannot be delivered.
- Posting prices that will not be honored.
- Issuing guarantees that cannot be met.
- Selling warranties that will not be honored.
- Lying about qualifications (e.g., claiming to hold a college degree but not doing so).
- Lying about identity, which can range from counterfeiting to assuming a fake name.
- Promising profits that cannot be produced, especially on investments.
- Not disclosing all the terms of a contract or loan.
- Omitting, covering up, or improperly downplaying information about risks.
Any organization or person who does such things in the course of selling products or providing services can potentially be named in a lawsuit brought by a Columbus, Ohio, civil litigation lawyer.
Contact Columbus Consumer Protection Lawyers About Fraudulent Misrepresentations
Attorneys with Leist Warner work every day to protect consumers from all sorts of fraud. If you or a member of your family has been harmed because of misrepresentation, call us at (614) 222-1000 or tell us your story by completing this contact form. We do not charge anything for the first consultation.