ATLANTA (Legal Newsline) - According to a group that fights deception in advertising, a recent lawsuit against a clothing retailer for use of deceptive pricing on its website is an effort to prevent dishonest companies from getting an advantage.
"Fictitious pricing exploits consumers’ desire to obtain a bargain, and means that consumers may pay more for a good or service than if they had continued searching for the lowest price," Bonnie Patten, the Executive Director of TruthInAdvertising.org (TINA.org), told Legal Newsline.
"This deceptive marketing tactic also takes sales away from honest competitors who do not exaggerate the reference price."
In May, two customers of Carter's Retail Inc (one from San Diego, the other from New Castle, Pa.) filed a class action lawsuit against Carter's Inc., The William Carter Company, Carter's Retail Inc., OshKosh B'gosh Inc. and Does 1-50, alleging the companies named of violating California's Consumer Legal Remedies Act and other business and civil codes, as well as Pennsylvania's Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law and other Pennsylvania business laws.
The accusation at the center of the suit is that bother Carter's and OshKosh B'gosh (a children's clothing retailer) offered false discount prices at their stores by claiming the initial price was higher than it ever actually was, creating the appearance of a discount where there had never been one.
Patten said that this sort of practice should teach consumers to never look at the amount of the discount, just the actual sale price.
"Because many retailers so frequently inflate or exaggerate the reference price, TINA.org advises consumers to completely ignore the SRP (suggested retail price) or listed market price, and make their purchasing decision based exclusively on the actual price that they will pay for the good or service," Patten said.
"Advertisers inflate the SRP in an attempt to enhance consumers’ perceptions of the value of a deal, when in actuality many of the reference prices are purely fictitious."
If approved, the class in the lawsuit could involve anyone who purchased an item from either Carter's or OshKosh that was said to have been marked down from an earlier original price. The plaintiff's are also proposing subclasses for customers living in California and Pennsylvania, since they cite specific laws from those states in the suit.
Carter's offices did not return an email seeking comment on the case.
In the end, Patten hopes that not only will this case force positive change, but also punishment and repayment.
"TINA.org hopes that this case will ensure that Carter’s stops using this deceptive marketing practice and that consumers are reimbursed for their losses," Patten said.