Misrepresentation and Fraud in Jewish Law
Talmudic law and the medieval law codes developed from it protected consumers from many types of deceptive practices.
“A man should not sell his neighbor shoes made of the hide of an animal that died, [representing them] as made of the hide of a living animal which was slaughtered; there are two reasons: first, because he is deceiving him, and secondly, because of the danger.” (Babylonian Talmud, Hullin 94a)
Rashi [the classic eleventh-century commentator on Bible and Talmud, from Northern France] explains:
“A shoe made of the hide of an animal that died without being slaughtered: the hide is not as strong as that of an animal that was slaughtered.”
And he explains the danger as follows:
“The animal may have died of a snake bite, the venom of which was absorbed by the hide [posing possible danger to whoever wears the shoes].”
Origin Marks Must Be Retained
Altering markings that indicate an item’s place of origin may also be included under the prohibition of misrepresentation:
“There are two types of deception. One is deception in the body of the merchandise, where it is sold as quality merchandise from a particular place, when in fact it is merchandise from somewhere else.” (Arukh Ha-shulhan [late nineteenth century work, by Yehiel Michal Halevi Epstein], Hoshen Mishpat 227:1)
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