Sportfishing landings forced by federal court to follow a specific set of rules on base of operations and pricing.
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA–Four companies offering sportfishing and whale watching excursions were slammed with a permanent injunction, Aug. 26. The injunction, which followed a guilty verdict for false and deceptive advertising, called for the companies to accurately advertise their place of business as in Newport Beach and not deceive the public on what they charge for their services.
Davey’s Locker, Newport Landing, Ocean Explorer and Freelance Sportfishing – all of whom were sued by Harbor Breeze, must state on their advertising, in clear letters, their excursions depart out of Newport Beach. The companies, each of whom offer whale watching or sportfishing excursions, are permitted to use some variation of Newport, Newport Beach, Newport Harbor, Orange County or Southern California “without triggering the disclosure requirements,” according to the federal permanent injunction.
The four companies are not allowed to mention cities such as Dana Point, Huntington Beach, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Malibu, Manhattan Beach, Marina del Rey, Redondo Beach, San Diego, San Pedro or Santa Barbara in their advertising campaigns, the injunction continued.
The injunction also directed Davey’s Locker, Newport Landing, Ocean Explorer and Freelance Sportfishing to state, on all printed or online advertisements, the “entire final cost of the ticket,” except for sales tax or optional items purchased at the customer’s discretion. Each company, in the lawsuit brought by Harbor Breeze, was accused of adding various fees (such as wharfage or fuel) to the advertised prices.
“[The injunction] addresses the false advertising claims that were raised at the trial including that the defendants deceived customers into the false belief that the Defendants operated in locations other than Newport Beach,” Dan DeCarlo, the attorney from Lewis Brisbois who represented Harbor Breeze, told The Log in an email. “The injunction also addresses the claims that Defendants falsely advertised their pricing.”
DeCarlo added a simple Google search of “Long Beach Whale Watching” shows Newport Landing, Davey’s Locker, Ocean’s Explorer and Freelance Sportfishing aren’t entirely in compliance with the injunction yet – even though the injunction is, as of press time, less than two weeks old.
One of the links found in the above referenced Google search was for whale watching out of Long Beach for $10 – clicking on the link would have taken the searcher to Davey’s Locker.
“Someone who clicked on that link may very well think they are going to a Long Beach whale watching provider (which they are not) and they have added under the $10 special language a reference to ‘*fees apply,’ DeCarlo said in his email to The Log. “That ‘fees apply’ language was inserted after the jury verdict but before the injunction was issued.”
DeCarlo stated the fees previously collected for fuel and/or wharfage was, after the jury verdict in favor of Harbor Breeze, was changed to “processing fee.”
“They did this voluntarily after the jury verdict and before the court’s injunction,” DeCarlo said. “It is our position that changing ‘wharfage’ and ‘fuel surcharge’ to ‘processing’ fee does nothing to cure the deception and it would appear that the court agreed with us in light of the fact that the issued injunction when complied with will not permit this kind of conduct in the future.
“Once the defendants come into compliance with the injunction, which should be soon (hopefully), they will essentially have to charge the price they advertise,” DeCarlo continued.