Deceptive Floral Advertising

There are literally thousands of websites listed online where you can order “local” flowers. However, a few of these claim that they are local, when in actuality they are out of town or even out of state. They just gather the order, charge an extra fee to the customer, and then contact a local florist to deliver flowers.

In an attempt to address this issue, in 2012 California State Asm. Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, introduced a bill to make such deceptive ad practices illegal. Assemblyman Wieckowski authored Chapter 633/AB 1581 “California Florists First Act,” which requires businesses that sell floral arrangements to list their geographical location in print ads, Internet ads and directory listings. About 28 other states have enacted similar laws. The issue traditionally has set local florists against national companies and while they reached agreement in California last year, the debate rages elsewhere. Four states are considering bill in 2013 and more will likely follow. Four bills currently pending include: Massachusetts HB 226, Missouri SB 101, Oklahoma SB 325 and Oregon HB 3447.

The legislation that passed was the fifth California bill introduced in the last 13 years on this same issue. Each of the four previous bills were vetoed by the governor. Proponents suggested that while there is nothing wrong with non-local marketing of florist services, the consumer should be aware that the presumed local small business does not in fact have a local physical presence. The law, now currently in effect, makes it illegal to misrepresent the geographic location of its business. Violators could be punished by a fine of up to $250 per offense for either:

  • Listing a local telephone number in any ad or listing, unless really considered local or the company must list the true physical address, including the city of the provider’s or vendor’s business.
  • Listing a fictitious business name or an assumed business name in any ad or listing.

 

The law that was ultimately enacted was negotiated between the Internet industry, legitimate national floral companies, and local florists. Before passing the Assembly, the bill was clarified so that it did not include the listing of toll-free phone numbers as deceptive. It also did not impose any duty or obligation on a person other than a vendor or provider of floral products or services, so does not regulate publishers of phone or internet directories, directory assistant services or internet websites that merely aggregate and provides information about other businesses.