San Francisco Consumer Fraud Attorney
The main purpose of the Consumers Legal Remedies Act (CLRA) is “to protect consumers against unfair and deceptive business practices.” The CLRA defines “consumers” as any individual who “seeks or acquires…any goods or services for personal, family, or household purposes.” The term “goods” include any personal property such as televisions, automobiles, and bicycles, including “certificates or coupons exchangeable” for goods. The term “services” means “work, labor and services” that are not for a business or commercial use but include services for the “sale or repair of goods.”
The CLRA does not, however, apply to the construction or sale of an entire residence or to the sale of real property. The CLRA also exempts owners and employees of the advertising medium (for example, a newspaper or television station) on which any advertisement that violates the CLRA is published. Thus, the newspaper or television station that runs the ad cannot be sued under the CLRA.
Liability under CLRA
Section 1770 of the CLRA lists 23 prohibited “unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices.” The following are some of the more frequently litigated prohibitions:
- Section 1770(a)(14) — Representing That A Transaction Confers Or Involves Rights, Remedies Or Obligations That It Does Not Have Or Involve, Or That Are Prohibited By Law
- This section provides consumers a basis by which to get out of a contract based on oral representations made about the contract itself. For example, if a salesperson tells a consumer that the contract gives the consumer a right to cancel within 30 days but the actual right to cancel is only 10 days, the court will consider the salesperson’s oral statements of the contract. Oral statements are usually not considered by the court under normal contract law.
- Section 1770(a)(17) — Representing That the Consumer Will Receive a Rebate, Discount Or Other Economic Benefit That Is Actually Contingent On Another Event – This section prohibits “bait and switch” rebate offers where the business hides the terms of the rebate from the consumer.
- Section 1770(a)(19) — Inserting An Unconscionable Provision In The Contract –
- This is probably the most frequently used provision under the CLRA. It gives the consumer an affirmative right, not merely a defense to a bad contract. Thus, the consumer is entitled to the damages discussed below.
The following are some of the other prohibited acts under CLRA:
- Passing off goods or services as those of another.
- Claiming a false geographical origination of the goods (for example: made in USA when the goods where made in Asia)
- Representing that goods are original or new when they are not.
- Representing that goods or services are of a particular standard, quality, or grade, or that goods are of a particular style or model, if they are of another.
- Disparaging the goods, services, or business of another by false or misleading representation of fact.
- Advertising goods or services with intent not to sell them as advertised.
- Advertising goods or services with intent not to supply reasonably expectable demand, unless the advertisement discloses a limitation of quantity.
- Advertising furniture without clearly indicating that it is unassembled if that is the case.
- Advertising unassembled furniture without indicating the assemble price if the furniture is available assembled.
- Making false or misleading statements concerning reasons for price reductions.
- Representing that a part, replacement, or repair service is needed when it is not.
- Representing that the subject of a transaction has been supplied in accordance with a previous representation when it has not.
- Representing that the consumer will receive a rebate, discount, or other economic benefit, if the earning of the benefit is contingent on an event to occur subsequent to the consummation of the transaction.
- Disseminating an unsolicited prerecorded message without consent.
- Misrepresenting the authority of a salesperson, representative, or agent to negotiate the final terms of a transaction with a consumer.
Remedies under CLRA
Consumers who suffer damage due to any of the methods listed above can file suit in California Superior Court to be compensated under Section 1780 of the CLRA. Section 1780 provides that consumers are entitled to actual damages. In addition, the court may order that the offending party stop the prohibited “methods, acts, or practices” and the restoration of any property. CLRA also provides for punitive damages. The purpose of punitive damages is to punish the defendant or to deter the defendant and others from the complained about conduct—in this case, consumer fraud.
Special remedies exist for consumer victims who are senior citizens or disabled persons if the consumer has “suffered substantial physical, emotional, or economic damage” and the court finds that such a remedy is appropriate. As such, Section 1780(5)(b) provides for an additional remedy of up to $5000 for these consumers.
Finally, Section 1780 requires the court to “award court costs and attorney’s fees to a prevailing plaintiff in litigation filed pursuant” to the CLRA. The award of attorney fees is a boon to consumers who are victims of unscrupulous business practices. It allows an attorney to take on even a case where the damages are economically small.
If you or a loved one have been the victim of consumer fraud, call the Law Offices of William E. Weiss at 1-888-622-7274 today. Don’t delay-you may have a valid claim and may be entitled to compensation, but a lawsuit must be filed before the applicable statute of limitations expires.