FDUTPA Claims: Florida Appeals Court Overrules Class Action Certification In Sales Tax Lawsuit Against BJ’s Wholesale Club
On April 14th, 2021, the Third District Court of Appeals for the State of Florida overturned a lower court’s decision to certify a class action FDUTPA lawsuit in a dispute over a retailer’s alleged overcharging of sales tax. In the case of BJ’s Wholesale Club, Inc., etc, v. Laura Bugliaro, the appeals court determined the FDUTPA does not cover the alleged violation in question. Here, our Miami deceptive & unfair trade practices attorneys discuss the decision from the Florida court.
Case Analysis: BJ’s Wholesale Club, Inc., etc, v. Laura Bugliaro
Background & Facts
BJ’s Wholesale Club (BJ’s) is a membership-only retail store with more than a dozen locations across the state of Florida, including in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Royal Palm Beach. The retailer offers certain promotional discounts to its customers, such as digital coupons. Ms. Bugliaro is a Florida resident who purchased two large televisions from two separate physical BJ’s locations using the coupons.
Upon reviewing her purchases, she noticed that BJ’s charged her sales tax for the original listed price of the item, not the reduced price after the coupon was applied. After going online to the BJ’s website, she found that she could get the same televisions delivered to her home using the coupon. However, when shopping online, the sales tax is adjusted to reflect the discounted price of the products.
The FDUTPA Lawsuit
Ms. Bugliaro made contact with a regional manager of the company to explain the issue. The manager apologized and confirmed that it was indeed BJ’s policy to charge sales tax on the undiscounted price. He offered her a one-time refund of the difference to make up for the confusion. She declined to accept the refund and instead filed a lawsuit under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUTPA).
In overturning the lower court’s decision in favor of the plaintiff, the Florida Third District Court of Appeal noted that the confusion in this case stems largely from the complexities of our state’s sales tax laws. The court explained the calculation of sales tax is actually somewhat more complicated than the general public understands. The proper calculation of sales depends on when exactly the product is “discounted.”
Additionally, the court noted that the Florida law has specialized provisions and remedies to deal with alleged improper sales tax collections. As such, the court ruled that Florida lawmakers “did not intend normal and routine tax disputes to be resolved in lawsuits under FDUTPA.” The class action, as previously certified, cannot move forward because BJ’s conduct, even if improper, is not covered by the FDUTPA.
Call Our Florida FDUTPA Lawyers for a Confidential Case Evaluation
At Pike & Lustig, LLP, our Florida business & consumer fraud lawyers have deep experience handling FDUTPA claims. If you have any questions about filing an individual FDUTPA lawsuit or a class action fraud lawsuit, we are ready and able to help. Call us today for your confidential initial case evaluation. We represent clients in Miami-Dade County, Broward County. Palm Beach County, Martin County, and throughout Florida.