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More consumers are suing brands for false advertising

Illustration by Kate Walker

More consumers are suing brands for false advertising


The Future. Consumers have brought more false advertising lawsuits against brands lately. While there may be many factors behind the increase — bolder and savvier consumers, increasingly dishonest advertising — one thing is clear: brands might have to be more careful about what they say.

You said what?
Customers are taking brands to court for a wide variety of false or misleading claims.

  • The most severe lawsuits allege that products have dangerous undisclosed ingredients, like a banned chemical compound in Olaplex’s hair-loss treatment or toxic bacteria in Unilever’s Laundress brand detergent.
  • Milder cases revolve around the places where companies claim to manufacture their products. Barilla and Godiva have both been sued by customers for stating that their US-made goods are produced in Italy and Belgium, respectively.
  • Food and beverage brands are also getting more flak from consumers for dishonest or misleading ingredient lists, like alcoholic drinks that pass off malt liquor as genuine tequila or whiskey.

What gives?
Social media makes it easier to call out brands because users are more likely to find others to back them and echo their complaints. Consumers might also be getting wise to marketing tactics after decades of internet use.

But more lawsuits probably do mean more lies. Companies know the difference between exaggeration and lying — their legal departments have to — so it’s concerning that their advertising is getting less honest. Maybe it’s good we’re getting less tolerant of them.

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