When you buy a product or service from a business you should get what you paid for. This is the most basic expectation of our whole economy. Unfortunately some businesses have different ideas. Instead, they deliver products and services that do not meet the expectations the business placed on the products or services it has sold. These deceptive and fraudulent business practices can result in significant financial harm for a consumer especially when the deceptive business practices involve large sums of investment or basic needs like housing and transportation. If you believe you were mislead as a consumer, you should talk to a consumer protection attorney right away.
Deceptive Trade Practices Act Claims in Texas
Texas law gives consumers effective remedies for losses suffered due to these deceptive and fraudulent business practices. Among those remedies the most powerful is undoubtedly the Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA) that gives consumers not just the right to pursue relief for financial losses but effective means to pursue recovery from the business including recovering attorney’s fees from the business. This allows consumers to hire an attorney to recover from the business and have professional legal representation on their side. That is a huge benefit to consumers, especially those who could not otherwise afford to hire a consumer law attorney.
The Texas DTPA was created in the 1970s to protect consumers from misleading and fraudulent business practices. Under the DTPA, you can sue a business for false, misleading, or deceptive trade practices. A plaintiff may recover compensation for harm suffered due to the deceptive trade practice. These can include:
- Cost of repair;
- Replacement cost;
- Attorney’s fees;
- Court costs;
- Mental anguish;
- Treble damages (three times the economic damages).
A DTPA claim may include harm beyond just replacing the cost of the deceptively purchased good or service. You may suffer a personal injury due to an inferior or dangerous product or damage to other property.
Other consumer law claims in Texas
Texas law provides other legal claims against a business for deceptive business practices; but these remedies are not as beneficial or simple as claims brought under the DTPA. These include common law claims such as breach of contract, breach of warranty and negligent or fraudulent misrepresentation, as well as sometimes other statutory claims. DTPA claims give businesses less room to hide behind complicated legal defenses. By requiring a losing defendant to pay attorney’s fees the law encourages defendants to settle claims early to avoid seeing the attorney’s fees pile up. In a lawsuit all of these claims may be alleged but the DTPA claims are typically the most favorable for consumers.
What is a deceptive trade practice or consumer fraud?
A deceptive trade practice, or consumer fraud, is a business practice to trick or defraud consumers into purchasing something they otherwise might not buy. The Texas DTPA prohibits dozens of dishonest business practices such as:
- Lying about features or benefits of a good or service that do not exist;
- Dishonestly explaining a good or service as having a quality above its true nature;
- Sold with a guarantee or warranty that is not enforced.
Essentially, if the business represents its products or services as better quality than is true, you may have a case for consumer fraud. Some of the ways businesses advertise products dishonestly include:
- Bait and switch advertising;
- Lying about the abilities of a product or service;
- Dishonest statements about the materials or quality of materials used in its construction;
- Using false endorsements;
- Spreading false information about a competitor or a competitor’s goods and services.
The DTPA and other sources of consumer law claims in Texas are simple in concept but complicated cases to pursue. If you believe you suffered injury or lost money due to a deceptive business practice, you should talk to a consumer law attorney.
How the Deceptive Trade Practices Act and a Consumer Attorney Can Help You
The Deceptive Trade Practices Act is a broad consumer protection statute that gives consumers remedies for deceptive and fraudulent business practices in selling and providing goods and services to consumers. The DTPA applies to most consumer transactions. DTPA remedies language gives consumers the right to recover for financial losses caused by the deceptive business practices along with attorney’s fees and in some cases a form of punitive damages that allows the consumer to recover up to three times the consumer’s losses.
The DTPA also gives consumers collection mechanisms typically not available to plaintiffs in civil lawsuits that greatly improves the probability that consumers will be able to recover from the business.
DTPA helps consumers in Texas
The DTPA changed the game for consumers in their favor. Previously consumers were stuck with complicated legal claims like breach of contract and breach of warranty that give defendants many opportunities to avoid liability by raising numerous defenses and arguing technicalities that left consumers empty handed. DTPA claims are more straightforward although they can still be complicated to litigate especially against a large corporation with high priced defense attorneys.
DTPA also tilted the scales in favor of consumers by giving consumers opportunities to recover punitive-type damages known as treble damages and attorney’s fees. Defendant businesses are more likely to reach a fair settlement to avoid the risk of a court awarding treble damages and a large attorneys fee award. DTPA gives consumers like you a fair opportunity in court against businesses that often have the money to put up a huge fight to protect their ability to rip off consumers.
How hiring a lawyer for a DTPA case can help you
Working with a Texas attorney on a DTPA or other consumer claim can benefit you in three ways.
First, like any lawsuit hiring an attorney will typically make your journey through the legal system smoother and more efficient because your attorney understands how the courts work and how to properly litigate your claims. Second, an attorney experienced in DTPA issues can help you fight for all of the relief you are entitled to by law. Your claim may allow recovery of treble damages which would make your claim considerably more valuable. Failing to properly plead and prove your claim can leave you missing out on significant sums of money. Third, defendant businesses are more likely to settle a claim when an attorney is involved due to the consumer’s right to recover attorneys fees. For the defendant every day that goes by with more work by the attorney the greater the potential judgment on attorney’s fees.
If a settlement is going to occur then there is no reason for the defendant to let the plaintiff’s attorney continue to rack up fees doing work.
Other Consumer Claims under Texas Law
The DTPA is not the only remedy for a consumer who has suffered a loss due to a business engaging in deceptive sales techniques. Other common law and statutory claims exist under Texas law. These claims may accompany DTPA claims. The DTPA is a powerful weapon for consumers but it is fairly narrow in its application. DTPA helps consumers when you buy a good or service and you either do not get it or it falls short of the advertised product or service.
This describes the bulk of consumer claims; but there are claims outside of the DTPA such as claims involving bodily injury in which the good or service resulted in a personal injury even if the cause of the bodily injury relates to the deceptive business practices. For these types of claims and many other consumer claims it is often necessary to look at other types of legal claims to help the consumer. These claims can be more complex and challenging for a plaintiff and working with a Texas attorney can be of considerable value.
Talk to a consumer protection attorney in Texas
If you were mislead to purchase a product or service by a Texas business, you should contact a consumer protection attorney. You may be able to recover for your losses and help protect other Texans from deceptive business practices. Many consumer protection attorneys in Texas will review your case for free, so you should not delay in exploring whether you have a consumer law case.