Illinois cinema owner Loews is in the eye of a class action lawsuit. Its sin has been to advertise movie start times which are really cinema ad start times.
Topic: Misleading advertising
Who: Miriam Fisch v Loews Cineplex Entertainment Group and Loews Piper's Theatres, Inc
When: March 2003
Where: The Illinois State Court in Chicago
A class action law suit was filed against Loews, a leading Illinois cinema owner, alleging deceptive business practices. On behalf of the class of claimants, with Chicago-based English teacher Miriam Fisch at their head, the claimant's attorney Douglas Litowitz claims "lost time" damages of $75 per claimant and an injunction.
The claim relates to the advertised start time for the main feature. This is deceptive, the law suit points out, because the advertised start time is not for the start of the movie, but for the ads that are screened before it.
Along with the damages, an injunction is sought compelling those to inform a film goer as to exactly when the ads will be run and when the movie will begin.
The suit claims that Loews' conduct classifies as misrepresentation and fraud by omission under the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act.
Why this matters:
Here in the UK, class action law suits are beginning to take off and the practice of UK cinemas is in most cases not dissimilar to that of Leows. But could a claim like this get off the ground here in the UK?
So far as public law is concerned, there can be no successful prosecution under the Trade Descriptions Act in respect of allegedly misleading advertising for services unless the advertiser can be shown to be at the very least reckless as to the truth or falsity of what it is publishing. On the other hand, there ought to be little room for doubt as to the start time for the movie on the one hand and the ads on the other.
In the on-line space, distance selling and e-commerce regulations now well in force in the UK require that statements regarding products and services are non-misleading and could clearly impact in the context of cinema ticket sales on-line and by telephone. Even if a case could be mounted for a breach of any of these legal requirements, however, there is no possibility of any civil damages being awardable to a claimant. However the CAP Code, now soon to be in force in its eleventh edition, continues to give the ASA effective power to order the discontinuance of misleading advertising. One wonders how long it might be before a UK cinema-goer brings a "misleading" claim before that body.
Our thanks to US law firm and fellow Global Advertising Lawyers' Alliance member Hall Dickler Kent Goldstein & Wood and their excellent "Adlaw by request" on-line marketing law reporting service for the piece that inspired this article.