4 retailers BUSTED for false advertising

On Thursday, Los Angeles prosecutors sued four national retailers for deceiving shoppers into believing they got bigger discounts than they actually did.

The separate lawsuits alleging deceptive advertising were filed against Sears, Macy's, Kohl's, and J.C. Penney.

The retailers falsely advertised higher regular prices for merchandise so customers, leading customers to think they were getting bigger bargains.

California law bars retailers from promoting a higher original price unless the product was sold at that very price within three months of the ad.

The lawsuits seek civil penalties up to $2,500 for each violation and injunctions to cease false reference pricing to bolster sales. As it turns out, thousands of "sale" items were advertised at false reference prices.

One of the lawsuits asserted that J.C. Penney was selling a maternity bathing suit top online for $31.99 earlier in the year, down from the original price of $46. The top was later marked down further but still compared to the $46 price point, despite the fact the item was never actually sold for $46.

Prosecutors said Kohl's and J.C. Penney previously faced class-action lawsuits alleging similar misleading business practices and had agreed to stop.

And to think that most of us shop at these big-name retailers!  Just last week, I bought shoes on the Macy's website at a supposedly great price. After learning of these lawsuits, I've become wary of all the "great deals" that Macy's is always touting -- whether on its website or in the "one day sale" commercials they're always airing.

I can see why Sears tried to pull a fast one on consumers: that ship is sinking, and fast. The brand has simply lost its appeal across various demographics, most notably younger shoppers. I'm sure a story like this will only aggravate the struggling retailer's wounds.

It bothers me that such respectable merchants would hoodwink their customers -- many of whom are die-hard loyalists -- to make an extra buck. Millionaire CEOs should not be lining their pockets on the backs of hard-working Americans; a good number of them are still struggling mightily in this slowly-rebounding economy.

So the next time you see what appears to be a great sale being advertised by any of these sellers, be sure to review the terms very carefully. You may just find that it's too good to be true!

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