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As it is used by regulators, the courts, and social scientists, deceptive advertising is a technical, legal term: A deceptive advertisement is one that involves a representation, omission, or practice likely to mislead a reasonable consumer. To be regulable under the law, however, a further condition must be met: The deception must be “material,” which is to say that it must be likely to detrimentally affect the consumer's purchasing decisions. While injurious effects on consumers account for much of what is objectionable about deceptive advertising from a moral and ethical point of view, deceptive advertising also harms competitors and generally weakens trust in the marketplace.

The above legal definition agrees with the one operative in European Union (EU) countries in essential respects, although the means by ...

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