Consumer Protection: The Law Of False Advertising


In the month of September, too much ink has been gruesomely spent on paper documenting certain court proceedings. That said, it got me thinking that if I was more alert and questioned things that happen in my daily life, I may end up in front of a judge sometime. The constant thing about our daily life is that we almost always have to spend money every single day. As this happens you are bound to encounter some sort of financial injustice as a consumer.

Among the outliers of the consumer iconoclasts, meeting someone who has experienced a not-so-fruitful purchase experience is not an uncommon event. Be it expired items on a supermarket shelf, less weight cylinder with incombustible gas or finding a snail or a worm in your salad.

These are grave injustices that are sometimes down to human error, this post is about ones that are blatantly intentional and are hidden in plain sight. The curious case of false advertising.

False advertising occurs when a seller uses confusing, misleading or untrue statements when promoting an item for sale. We might not notice it but this happens a lot. Especially with online brands where the picture used in advertising the product is not an actual representation of what the product will look like when delivered. Fast Food restaurants are also prone to this by antagonizing our taste buds with seductive pictures of food only for them to serve nothing close to what the eyes saw.


Reality vs Advertising. Image from

False advertising has two facets, deceptive sales and deceptive pricing practices.

Deceptive Pricing

Placing an item ‘on sale’ by falsely stating a price that is higher than the normal price of the item.

Using words like “special price” without clearly disclosing the actual price of the item on offer.

Advertising a product at a low price then charging customers for extras which should have been included in the overall price but were not.

Deceptive Sales

Untrue/Unverified statements about product quality or performance.

Use of pictures that do not represent the actual product/service.

Use of deceptive statements like “cash back guarantee” but sender fails to refund full price of purchase in case of a dispute.

Bait-switching. A seller lures you with an ad only to downplay the product themselves and try to sell you a similar product usually at a higher price than what was advertised in the ad.

Advertising products that are not in stock to try and keep up brand appearances.

The Law.

All these are common malpractices that are prohibited within the Kenyan law and are covered by the consumer protection act signed in 2012. This law shields consumers from unprofessional practices by businesses with a purpose to promote and advance the economic welfare of consumers.

This means that you can report a false advertiser to the Kenya Consumer Protection Advisory or file a class action suit in court. In 2014, Red Bull paid $10 to customers disappointed the drink didn’t actually give them ‘Wings’. the company agreed to pay out more than $13 million after settling a US class action lawsuit that accused Red Bull of making false and misleading advertising claims. Red Bull does not, as it turns out, give you wings, even in the figurative sense.

In Kenya, the penalty for those found guilty of false advertising is a fine of one million Kenya Shillings of a prison term of up to three years.

So, if you feel hard done by a business and you have probable cause, you can proceed to court and seek repatriation.

But before you purchase anything, let common sense prevail, pay attention to detail, be on the lookout for the items listed on this post and investigate a brand’s reputation before purchasing to spare yourself some agony.

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Ken is a marketing strategist working with various brands online. He is passionate about helping businesses build relationships by providing actionable insights on online marketing and advertising trends.