FDUTPA: The Term “Unfair or Deceptive Act” is Construed Liberally
Companies that engage in fraudulent or unjust commercial activities can be held accountable for the damage they cause to consumers and other businesses. The Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUTPA) is a powerful consumer protection statute. The FDUTPA allows consumers to file a lawsuit to get compensation for losses related to an “unfair or deceptive act.”
However, the statute technically does not define those terms—at least not clearly. This can lead to some understandable confusion over what exactly constitutes an FDUTPA. Here, our Miami deceptive and unfair practices attorneys provide an overview of the instructions that Florida lawmakers gave to courts to help them interpret and apply the FDUTPA.
Florida Legislature: FDUTPA Provisions Construed Liberally
In drafting the state law, Florida legislators gave courts specific instructions for interpreting and applying the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. Specifically, state law mandates that Florida courts are to construe the provisions of the FDUTPA liberally in order to “protect the consuming public and legitimate business enterprises from those who engage in unfair methods of competition, or unconscionable, deceptive, or unfair acts.” In practice, this means that Florida lawmakers have been given the guidance/authority to interpret the term “unfair or deceptive act” in a relatively broad manner.
In the 2001 case of Samuels v. King Motor Co. of Fort Lauderdale, the District Court of Appeals of Florida addressed this matter directly. The court ruled that an auto dealership violated the FDUTPA by presenting a consumer with a misleading lease agreement. The car dealership tried to defend the lawsuit on the grounds that there were no technical falsehoods alleged. In ruling in favor of the plaintiff, the appeals court emphasized that Florida law requires a liberal construal of the FDUTPA.
Significant Weight is Given to Federal Counterpart (Federal Trade Commission Act)
Beyond instructing courts to construe the statute liberally, Florida lawmakers also stated that significant weight should be given to the “interpretations of the Federal Trade Commission and the federal courts.” The FDUTPA is Florida’s state-level counterpart to the Federal Trade Commission Act. Although not identical to federal law, it shares many similarities. As such. Florida lawmakers have advised courts to try to find consistency with federal law when interpreting and applying the FDUTPA. Still, there are key differences between Florida’s state consumer protection laws and federal consumer protection law. If you are considering filing a claim under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, an attorney can help you prepare a strong, well-supported legal claim.
Call Our Miami Consumer Fraud Lawyers for a Confidential Initial Consultation
At Pike & Lustig, LLP, our Florida consumer fraud attorneys have the skills and expertise to help you get justice and financial support for your damages. If you have any questions about what constitutes an unfair or deceptive practice under Florida law, we can help. Get in touch with our firm now for a strictly confidential initial legal consultation. We handle FDUTPA claims throughout Southeastern Florida, including in Miami-Dade County, Broward County, and Palm Beach County.