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Consumer Law

: Reasonable Basis

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The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus (NAD) found claims by Lenovo that is PCs were the "The World's Best-Engineered PCs with the Awards to Prove It" and "The World's Best-Engineered PCs" were unsubstantiated superiority claims rather than puffery.  Lenovo (United States), Inc., Case #4820 (3/25/08).  I think the NAD got it right with respect to first claim, but was wrong with respect to the second.

Advertising claims fall into two broad categories. The first is statements of fact, which if false or otherwise deceptive, give rise to a cause of action for false advertising. A statement of fact is one that can be determined to be true or false in a way that allows for verification.  In other words, the claim itself provides a means for determining whether it is true or false.  The second broad category is non-actionable claims, usually referred to as ?puffery.? Puffery is those statements that are exaggerated bluster or boast upon which no reasonable person would rely. Statements of opinion fall into this category.  Statements of fact and puffery are mutually exclusive. If a statement is "not specific and measurable and cannot be reasonably interpreted as providing a benchmark by which the veracity of the statement can be ascertained, the statement constitutes puffery.?

Looking at the two claims, "The World's Best-Engineered PCs with the Awards to Prove It" provides something of a benchmark -- awards -- for determining whether or not the claim is true.  Though I have doubts as to whether "awards" is truly a benchmark, determining puffery is not easy so I'll give the NAD the benefit of the doubt here.  The second claim, "The World's Best Engineered PCs," however, strikes me as pure opinion and bluster.  I would hope that a company believes that it has the best engineered products and it should be allowed to state its opinion without risk of being charged with making a deceptive superiority claim.

Full post as published by Reasonable Basis on April 15, 2008 (boomark / email).

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