Being Dishonest Can Get You in Trouble Under FDUTPA
Honesty is a good thing in life. But is it illegal to be dishonest? Unfair? Deceptive? You may say that these are bad qualities to have, but not illegal. But in fact there is a law that makes just these types of business practices illegal.
Florida’s Deceptive Trade Practices Act
The law is Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUTPA). As the name says, acts by businesses that are unfair or deceptive allow a consumer to sue for damages. FDUTPA makes it illegal to do things that would otherwise just be considered “wrong” or immoral.
FDUTPA actually has no stated definition of what an unfair or a deceptive trade practice is, and this has left courts to fill in the blanks and define what is made illegal. Many cases have said that any kind of behavior by a business that is intended to, or which is likely to mislead a consumer, is prohibited by the act.
Anything that a layperson would consider to be immoral, oppressive, unethical, or which would be likely to seriously financially injure consumers, is prohibited by the act.
Vagueness Can Be a Hindrance or a Help
This vague, broad and all-encompassing definition is great if you are an aggrieved consumer, as it allows you a lot of leeway to sue a business that has wronged you. But from a business’ standpoint, it may be difficult to stay out of trouble, without a more tangible definition of what FDUTPA prohibits.
What Are FDUTPA Violations?
FDUTPA has been applied in “bait and switch” and other types of false advertising claims. It has been used when a consumer was lied to, or at least, not treated completely fairly.
Charging consumers for charges they are not made aware of can lead to liability under the act, as can bolstering claims to induce consumers to buy a product or service. Falsely touting a business’ effectiveness, or the quality of products or service, can lead to liability under FDUTPA.
It is worth noting that although fraud would be a violation of FDUTPA, you do not need to prove fraud to have a violation of FDUTPA. Something can be dishonest, immoral, or misleading, and thus a violation of FDUTPA, without being actual fraud.
Remedies for Consumers and the State
Consumers can sue under FDUTPA for their damages, and can also obtain attorney’s fees, which allows consumers to get legal representation even if they do not have a significant monetary loss because of a business’ behavior.
Not only can consumers use FDUTPA to sue a business, but the Florida Attorney General’s office can as well, and they often do. In many cases, when you hear about the state suing a business for defrauding consumers, the state is doing so under FDUTPA.
Call the West Palm Beach commercial litigation lawyers at Pike & Lustig to help keep your business out of trouble, and to make sure that your business is in compliance with Florida’s trade practices laws.