JoS. A. Bank Clothiers Inc. was hit with a putative class action in New Jersey by DeNittis Osefchen Price, P.C., alleging that its advertisements for sales dupe customers because they promote maximum price reductions, but not the minimum, in violation of consumer protection laws.
At the core of Michael Leese’s Feb. 15 lawsuit are the menswear retailer’s marketing materials — including advertisements sent via email and direct mail and appearing on the company website and in stores — offering customers “up to 70 percent off” merchandise, but omitting the fact that the steepest discount only applies to a subset of items. The practice is contrary to New Jersey consumer law, which requires advertisements to “state the minimum percentage reduction as conspicuously … as the maximum percentage reduction,” according to the lawsuit, which was filed in Burlington County Superior Court. “Pursuant to this regulation, it is illegal in New Jersey to advertise only the maximum percentage discount in connection with a sale or to quality such advertisement as ‘up to’ this maximum percentage discount, without also stating the minimum percentage discount associated with the sale. The retailer also ran afoul of the regulation mandating an explanation for the basis of the reduction, such as regular price or a competitor’s price, the complaint says. The ads “simply list” the former price with a line through it. The Hampstead, Maryland-based retailer operates 800 stores nationwide, including 26 in New Jersey. At least three are in Burlington County, the complaint says. In November, Leese received a mailed advertisement for the company’s pre-Thanksgiving sale, a bold-print announcement of “up to 70 percent off” during a four-day-only weekend special. The bottom of the flyer said, in smaller print, that the steep discount applied to “select styles only.” The website also featured the bold-print announcement and listed the items subject to the “up to 70 percent off” discount, according to Leese. On Nov. 21, Leese visited the retailer’s Mount Laurel location and was greeted by brightly colored placards advertising the same sale, the complaint says. He purchased one of the items included in the sale, the Traveler Collection traditional fit sport coat, for $169. Because the coat’s original price was $398, the discount only amounted to 57.5 percent. What happened to Leese was no accident or isolated incident, the complaint says. “Rather, it was part of a uniform policy in which defendant engaged in a systematic scheme of false and misleading advertising, marketing and sales practices with the purpose of persuading customers to purchase items” from the retailer, the complaint says. The complaint seeks $100 per violation per class member. Leese is represented by Stephen P. DeNittis, Joseph A. Osefchen and Shane T. Prince of DeNittis Osefchen Prince PC. The case is Michael Leese, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, v. JoS. A. Bank Clothiers Inc., in the Superior Court of New Jersey, County of Burlington. If you believe you have been a victim of false advertising or a fake sale contact the lawyers at DeNittis Osefchen Prince, P.C. for a free consultation.