Hawaii Revised Statutes § 480-2 provides a powerful tool to protect investors or consumers who have been injured by misleading or deceptive advertising. The Hawaii Supreme Court has concluded that if advertising has a “capacity to mislead” it may violate the Hawaii Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
The reason this tool is so helpful to investors or consumers is two-fold. First, it is much easier to prove a violation of H.R.S. § 480-2 than it is to prove a claim of fraud. Unlike a fraud claim, to prevail in a H.R.S. § 480-2 case, the victim does not have to demonstrate that the advertiser intended to mislead the consumer. Indeed, the consumer must only demonstrate that the advertising has a “capacity to mislead.” A far easier standard of proof.
The second reason H.R.S. § 480-2 is so important in the protection of Hawaii consumers is the damages that are recoverable. An investor or consumer injured under H.R.S. § 480-2 may recover actual damages trebled (multiplied by three), attorneys fees and costs. Obviously, when faced with the prospect of paying treble damages and attorneys fees, a company in Hawaii should be highly motivated to truthfully advertise its products. As such, H.R.S. § 480-2 is a vital weapon in the fight for truth in advertising.