Consumer Protection In Florida: What I Was Told Is Not The Same As What Is In Writing
As a consumer in Florida, the state’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Law (FDUTPA) protects you against material misrepresentations, false advertising, and other unjust commercial practices by businesses. You can hold a business legally liable for damages sustained because of deceptive unfair trade practices.
This raises an important question: What if a business is telling you something different than what is in writing? The answer is that Florida law states that you must rely on the written agreement. Here, our West Palm Beach deceptive & unfair trade practices attorneys explain the key things to know about your rights if oral representations are inconsistent with what you received in writing.
Case Law: No FDUTPA Liability for Oral Representations in Contradiction of Written Contract
The 2005 Florida appeals court case of Mac-Gray Serv., Inc. v. DeGeorge involves a commercial dispute over the sale of laundromat equipment. The buyer filed an FDUTPA claim arguing that they were materially misled by the seller. A significant issue at stake in this dispute is that the buyer alleged that misleading oral representations were made. However, the parties also had a valid written agreement. In deciding the matter in favor of the defendant (seller), the Florida appeals courts clarified the state’s standard:
- An FDUTPA claim cannot be brought on grounds that the plaintiff relied on deceptive or unfair oral representations that contradicted the terms of a written contract. As a matter of law in Florida, relying on oral representations instead of a written contract is unreasonable.
To summarize, a consumer or business cannot bring an FDUPTA claim against a business for misleading verbal representations if there is an actual written contract that states contradictory terms. When in doubt, parties should always default to the terms of the written agreement.
The Lesson for Consumers in Florida: Get it in Writing
The FDUTPA provides important legal protections to consumers in Florida. At the same time, there are limits to your rights under the law. If you are entering into an important agreement, it is always best to get things in writing.
If what you are being told verbally is inconsistent with what is written, it is best to address the issue proactively. Indeed, you may want to ask the company to clarify and/or fix the written contract or agreement.
Ultimately, in a FDUTPA claim, courts focus largely on the terms of the written agreement. If there is an inconsistency between what you are being told and what is written, you should always rely on what is in writing.
Get Help From a FDUTPA Lawyer in Southeastern Florida
At Pike & Lustig, LLP, our South Florida consumer protection lawyers have the skills and expertise to handle all forms of deceptive and unfair trade practices claims. If you have questions about what counts as a deceptive or unfair practice under the FDUTPA, we will help. Call us now or contact us directly online to arrange your fully private initial consultation. From our office locations in West Palm Beach, Wellington and Miami, we represent consumers and businesses throughout Southeastern Florida.