A customer has filed a proposed class action complaint against JCPenny in the Central District of California. The suit alleges that JCPenney falsely advertised the “original” prices, “sale” prices, and corresponding discounts for its private and exclusive branded apparel and accessories.

According to the complaint, JCPenney’s sales “scheme” purports to compare the “sale” price for various items of clothing and accessories with an “original” retail price. The plaintiff alleges that the “original” prices advertised by JCPenney are not the prevailing market retail prices within the preceding three months of the advertised sale, as required under California consumer protection statutes, and thus the “sales” offer consumers a false bargain.  

The plaintiff claims she was induced to buy various items through this sales “scheme” because she believed she would be paying significantly less than what the items were worth. In the case of many of the items, however, the prevailing price for the preceding three months was not above the advertised “sale” price. The suit seeks injunctive relief, corrective advertising, restitution, and attorneys’ fees.

TIP: Under guidance provided by the Federal Trade Commission, when advertising a discount, the “former price” that is used as the basis for the discount must be the actual, bona fide price at which the product was offered to the public for a reasonably substantial period of time. In addition to FTC guidance, certain state consumer protection laws, including those in California, limit and define what may be advertised as the “regular” retail price.