California Comparison Pricing

Comparison Pricing Litigation in California

California Comparison Pricing

It has become increasingly common for consumers to bring comparison pricing litigation in California. That’s because the state has some of the strongest consumer protection laws in the country, including laws that regulate unfair competition, false advertising, and deceptive pricing. California’s comparison price law requires retailers to provide accurate pricing information in advertisements, whether the ads appear in print media or online. The law recognizes that consumers should not be tricked into purchasing an item for the regular full price simply because the retailer included a fake sale price in an advertisement or promotion. If this has happened to you, one of the California false advertising lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP can help you.

To learn more about comparison pricing litigation in California, keep reading this blog.

Comparison Pricing Is a Retail Sales Strategy That May Violate California False Advertising Laws

Retailers that do business in California and elsewhere often use comparison pricing, reference pricing, strikethrough pricing, or compare-at pricing to persuade customers to make a purchase. All of these basically mean the same thing: the retail company prominently advertises that the item is “on sale,” and they back up this claim with a visual comparison between the current sale price and the original list price.

Comparison pricing is subject to strict regulations because lawmakers recognize that a lot of retailers go too far with deceptive ads that aren’t entirely honest about the former prices. For example, the reference price mentioned in the advertisement or promotion might be from a very long time ago, or it might be for an item that is not the same as the one currently being sold. Since the California comparison pricing law requires businesses to use actual sales prices that are relevant and timely, these types of former pricing representations with deceptive discounts could expose a retailer to consumer litigation.

California Has Strong Consumer Protection Laws

Under both federal and state consumer protection laws, retailers that do business in California cannot use fictitious price comparisons when advertising products. Consumers should also keep in mind that the comparison pricing laws apply to both in-person sales and online sales.

The jurisdiction where a comparison pricing lawsuit is filed can make all the difference when it comes to the outcome of a case. That’s because certain states have very strong consumer protection laws that hold businesses to extremely high standards for advertising, marketing, and sales practices. California has some of the strongest consumer fraud statutes, including §17501 of California’s Business & Professions Code that directly addresses fraudulent marketing and advertising practices.

Comparison Pricing Lawsuits Filed Against Retail Companies in Los Angeles

Failure to comply with California’s law on comparison pricing could expose retailers to significant liability, including a class action lawsuit filed by consumers who purchased products after viewing the misleading advertisement with deceptive sale pricing. Just some of the major retailers that have been sued under California’s false advertising law in recent years include Amazon, The Gap, Guess, J.Crew, Kate Spade & Company, Neiman Marcus Group, Overstock.com, and Walmart.

In California, the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office has made a point of going after large retailers that use deceptive pricing in ads to generate sales. The crackdown on false reference pricing prompted the LA City Attorney to bring civil suits against several major department stores that did business in the city, including JCPenney, Kohl’s, Macy’s, and Sears. The retailers were accused of deceptively marketing thousands of items at “sale” prices that did not exist.

California’s False Advertising Law Prohibits Deceptive Prices in Retail Ads

Section 17501 of California’s false advertising law explicitly prohibits advertisements that use a misleading or inaccurate former price.

Actual Prices

The California law stipulates that there must be a legitimate basis for the comparison price cited by the retailer, whether it’s a list price or Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price (MSRP). Businesses are not allowed to create false impressions about discounts by referencing prices that never actually existed just to make the ticket price look like a good deal. The retailer must be prepared to provide proof that the item was previously sold for a higher price. But even that might not be enough for the retailer to avoid retail discount pricing litigation. For example, if the former price was only in effect for a short period of time, the retailer might not be legally allowed to mention this price in an advertisement because there will be serious questions about whether the original compare-at price was legitimate.

Three-Month Time Period

The California law places limits on the comparison prices that retail businesses may mention in an advertisement by explicitly barring them from mentioning an item’s former price unless it was the “prevailing market price” within the three months immediately preceding the ad’s publication.

But what happens when the company’s sale lasts longer than 90 days? In situations like this, California’s promotional pricing guidelines call for the company to revise its advertisement or run the risk of violating the strikethrough pricing statute. That’s because the former price listed in the ad will no longer fall within the 90-day window, which means that it’s no longer valid under the law. In other words, a sales ad that was initially legal will become illegal and could serve as the basis for a consumer to file a lawsuit.

Importantly, California does give retailers an opportunity to revise their ads so that they avoid violating the law. The company can either change the former price in the ad once it becomes outdated or they can “clearly, exactly, and conspicuously” note the date when the former price applied so that the advertisement is not misleading.

Define Relevant Terms

In addition to establishing a three-month timeframe for evaluating the appropriateness of the former price being advertised, the California false advertising statute also attempts to define relevant terms for retailers and consumers. For instance, what does the law mean by “prevailing market price”? This matters because the actual price of the item in question will go a long way toward determining whether the former price was legitimate or false.

Here, there are several factors that must be considered. For instance, what was the actual price of the item at other stores in the same geographical area or region? Also, were any sales made at that price? And, if so, how many units sold? Moreover, were there different prices for the item during the three-month period being evaluated? Since a court can consider any or all of these factors in a strikethrough pricing case, it is important for consumers to speak with a qualified California consumer protection attorney before making any final decisions about how to proceed with their case.

Standing to Sue in California Strikethrough Pricing Claims

It is often easier for plaintiffs to establish that they have standing to sue in a comparison pricing claim brought under California’s false advertising law. Of course, the plaintiffs in a California comparison pricing case must establish that they have standing to sue. In the past, this meant that the plaintiff needed to show that they purchased the item and that they did so at a price higher than they otherwise would have paid. Absent this showing, the door was open for defendants to argue that the plaintiff did not suffer any injury or economic harm because they received exactly what they paid for and therefore got “the benefit of the bargain.”

Things became much easier for plaintiffs when the California Supreme Court ruled in Kwikset Corp. v. Superior Court that plaintiffs in false advertising cases no longer need to prove that the product they purchased was worth less than the amount paid for it. Now, plaintiffs who bring a comparison pricing claim in California courts merely need to show that they purchased the item because of the deceptive pricing information in the ad; the prevailing market price or MSRP of the item no longer matter.

False Reference Pricing Class Action Lawsuits in California

California false advertising laws regulate companies that do business in the state, including broad protections against sales price misrepresentations. This has led to numerous class action lawsuits being filed on behalf of consumers who have fallen victim to false reference pricing.

It is important for consumers to recognize that they can file a civil suit, or join a consumer class action, even when the retail company does not have a physical brick-and-mortar location in California. As long as the consumer is in California and accessed the business’ website to view the ad or to make a purchase, they may be eligible to bring a Section 17501 claim for false reference pricing.

How Much Money Can Consumers Recover in a California Comparison Pricing Claim?

When a retailer is sued for violating California’s false advertising law, the monetary damages may be substantial. That’s because the statute allows for recovery of actual damages by the plaintiff, as well as the imposition of civil penalties against the defendant. These civil penalties can quickly add up because the defendant can be ordered to pay $2,500 for each violation of the law. Moreover, the court may have the option to impose an additional fine of $2,500 for each violation that injured a senior citizen or a disabled person.

Other California False Advertising Statutes: CCPA, and CLRA, and UCL

One strategy that retail companies might use to get around the California false advertising law is to hide their sales in customer loyalty programs. But this tactic may be a violation of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which gives consumers another avenue for filing suit against retailers.

Additional legal claims that may be available in comparison pricing cases include violations of the Consumers Legal Remedies Act (CLRA), especially if the defendant’s conduct involved deceptive language in the advertisement.

The California Unfair Competition Law (UCL) is another consumer protection statute that applies broadly to a wide range of conduct by companies, including unlawful, unfair, and fraudulent business practices. Deceptive or false advertising is also prohibited by the statute.

Contact the California False Advertising Lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP

A lot of retailers use comparison prices in advertisements to encourage consumers to make a purchase while the item is “on sale.” If you bought a retail product because the retailer used deceptive pricing in a store ad or an online ad, you should speak with an experienced Los Angeles consumer protection attorney at Tauler Smith LLP.

Call 310-590-3927 or email us to schedule a free initial consultation.

California Consumer Privacy Act

California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)

California Consumer Privacy Act

California has some of the strongest consumer privacy laws in the country, and companies that violate those laws could face serious legal repercussions. For example, state residents have a right to privacy under the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). These privacy rights exist when a prospective customer talks to a salesperson or customer service rep on the phone, communicates via an online chat feature, or fills out a form on a website. Anytime a company monitors, records, or uses the data collected in these communications without permission, it may be considered an unlawful invasion of privacy that subjects the offending company to civil penalties. Moreover, consumers whose personal information is exposed in a data breach may be entitled to recover statutory damages, which can total thousands of dollars.

To learn more about the California Consumer Privacy Act, keep reading this blog.

Digital Privacy Concerns for California Consumers

Digital privacy is a major concern in the internet era. Studies show that many Americans are worried about a lack of control over their personal information, particularly the information they share with companies on the internet. For example, a Pew Research Center survey found that approximately 60% of Americans believe that it is simply not possible to go through their daily lives without companies monitoring them and collecting their data. The same survey also showed that more than 80% of U.S. adults are concerned about how companies use the data that is collected.

State laws like the California Invasion of Privacy Act (CIPA) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) recognize the importance of giving consumers some degree of control over their sensitive personal information. That’s why the CIPA requires companies to disclose when they are wiretapping or recording conversations, and the CCPA allows consumers to opt out of having their data shared by companies.

What Is the California Consumer Privacy Act?

In 2018, state legislators passed the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). This was the very first state privacy law, and it has served as a model for other states looking to strengthen protections for consumer data. The CCPA imposes obligations on businesses that collect customer data, as well as specifically allowing consumers to make demands about how their personal information is used by businesses.

What Consumer Rights Are Protected by the CCPA?

Among the most important consumer rights protected by the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) are:

  • The right for consumers to know exactly what type of personal information is collected by a business, including how that information will be used, shared, or sold by the business.
  • The right to request that any personal information collected by a business be deleted.
  • The right for consumers to submit an “opt-out” request and prevent a business from selling their personal information.
  • The right not to be discriminated against by a business simply for exercising consumer rights under the CCPA. This means that businesses cannot deny you the ability to purchase goods or services or otherwise complete a transaction just because you asked about the personal information they collect.

The CPRA Amended the CCPA to Strengthen Consumer Privacy Rights

The California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) amended the CCPA to enhance consumer privacy protections and brought the state law more in line with the robust protections provided under international law by the European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The CPRA placed severe restrictions on companies doing business in California, and it also created new consumer rights such as the right to correct any personal data that is inaccurate. Additionally, the CPRA broadened the scope of previous CCPA protections in other ways. For example, the CPRA allows consumers to opt out of the sharing of their personal information with third party advertisers. Under the old consumer privacy law, opting out was only an option with respect to the sale of personal information.

Filing a Civil Lawsuit Under the CCPA

In most cases, the California Consumer Protection Act (CCPA) does not create a private right of action that would allow consumers to file civil suits. But the California Attorney General does have the ability to take action against businesses that violate the CCPA. The possible civil penalties that may be imposed against companies include a fine of $7,500 for each violation of the data privacy law.

Additionally, there is at least one situation where a consumer may be able to bring a civil lawsuit: when the consumer’s personal information is exposed in a security breach because the business failed to follow adequate security procedures. Victims of data theft can file a claim under the CCPA to recover statutory damages of up to $750 for each incident.

Call the Los Angeles Consumer Privacy Lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP

Were you a victim of a data breach by a company that exposed your personal information? You need an experienced Los Angeles consumer protection lawyer who is familiar with the nuances of state privacy laws, including the California Consumer Privacy Act. The Los Angeles consumer privacy attorneys at Tauler Smith LLP are prepared to represent you in a civil suit, and we can help you get financial compensation for any harm you suffered when your privacy rights were infringed.

Call 310-590-3927 or send an email to schedule a free initial consultation about your case.

California Invasion of Privacy Act

California Invasion of Privacy Act (CIPA)

California Invasion of Privacy Act

It is quite common these days for businesses to monitor and record phone calls with customers, whether it’s to ensure that orders are accurate, to review employee interactions, or for some other reason. At the same time, new technologies have made it easier than ever to eavesdrop on private communications. Unfortunately, this has resulted in some companies going too far by invading the privacy of customers. The California Invasion of Privacy Act (CIPA) is a state law that makes it illegal for businesses to wiretap consumer communications and record you without your consent. Businesses that violate the CIPA may be subject to both criminal and civil penalties, including a lawsuit filed by any consumers whose conversations were wiretapped or recorded without permission.

To learn more about the California Invasion of Privacy Act, keep reading this blog.

What Is California’s Invasion of Privacy Law?

California has the nation’s strongest consumer protection laws, including the California Invasion of Privacy Act (CIPA), the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA), the California Consumers Legal Remedies Act, and the California Unfair Competition Law (UCL). The CCPA was enacted in 2018 to become the nation’s first state privacy law, and it strengthened protections for customer data collected by businesses online. The CIPA has a longer history, having been passed by the California State Legislature in 1967 for the purpose of more broadly protecting the privacy rights of all state residents, including consumers. Under the CIPA, it is illegal for companies to wiretap or record conversations unless all participants have consented to the recording. This applies to telephone conversations and online communications.

Cell Phones

Although the wiretapping law was initially intended to cover calls on landline phones, the use of cellular phones has been addressed by the statute. Cal. Pen. Code sections 632.5 and 632.6 specifically prohibit the use of a recording device when a call involves a cellular phone, whether it’s two cell phones or one cell phone and one landline phone.

Websites & Session Replay Software

In addition to recording phone conversations, a lot of companies also keep records of their interactions and communications with customers who visit a company website. This becomes problematic – and possibly illegal – when the company uses session replay software to capture visitor interactions with their website. That’s because the use of this type of tracking software may constitute an unlawful intercept of the communication, as defined by California’s wiretap law.

Session replay software allows website operators to monitor how a user interacts with the website. The tool then reproduces a video recording that shows the user’s interactions, including what they typed, where they scrolled, whether they highlighted text, and how long they stayed on certain pages. When companies employ this software, the very fact that a machine is being used to intercept customer communications constitutes a violation of the CIPA.

California Penal Code Section 631: Wiretapping

California Penal Code Section 631 forbids anyone from illegally wiretapping a conversation. The law specifically prohibits the following:

  • Using a machine to connect to a phone line.
  • Trying to read a phone message without the consent of all the parties participating in the conversation.
  • Using any information obtained through a wiretapped conversation.
  • Conspiring with another person to commit a wiretapping offense.

Some states allow a call to be recorded when just one participant is aware of the wiretap and consents to it, even if the person recording the call is the one providing consent. But California is a two-party consent state, which means that everyone involved in the call or chat must agree to it being recorded. If just one party does not provide consent, then recording the conversation constitutes a violation of the CIPA and can result in both criminal and civil penalties.

Out-of-State Businesses

Even if the person who called you or chatted with you was not located in California, you can still bring a lawsuit under the Invasion of Privacy Act as long as you were in the state at the time of the call or chat. That’s because out-of-state businesses must still comply with California laws when communicating with someone who is in the state.

California Penal Code Section 632: Eavesdropping

Section 632 of the California Penal Code addresses the crime of eavesdropping. Many times, a wiretapping case also involves eavesdropping offenses where the offending party both taps a phone line and listens in on the conversation. The main difference between the two is that eavesdropping does not necessarily involve the tapping of a phone line.

The statute defines “eavesdropping” as the use of a hidden electronic device to listen to a confidential communication. Significantly, the law is not limited to phone conversations. When someone intentionally eavesdrops on an in-person conversation, they may be subject to criminal charges and a civil suit for damages. The types of electronic devices that are often used to illegally eavesdrop include telephones, video cameras, surveillance cameras, microphones, and computers. If the device was concealed from one of the parties, it may constitute a violation of California’s eavesdropping laws.

Can You Sue for Invasion of Privacy in California?

Although the California Invasion of Privacy Act is technically a criminal statute, Cal. Pen. Code §637.2 gives victims of wiretapping and eavesdropping the ability to bring a civil suit against the person or company that illegally recorded the conversation. If you learn that someone was listening in on your private conversation without permission, you may be able to file a lawsuit to recover statutory damages.

How to Prove Invasion of Privacy Under the CIPA

To win your CIPA claim, you will need to prove that the conversation was illegally recorded in the first place. In some cases, this will be obvious because the business will reveal that they are monitoring and recording the call or chat. In other cases, consumers may learn about illegal wiretapping during the discovery process when the defendant is forced to turn over company records.

The other elements of a CIPA claim that you will need to establish at trial include:

  • The defendant intentionally used an electronic device to listen in on and/or record the conversation.
  • You had an expectation that the conversation would not be recorded.
  • You or at least one other person on the call did not consent to having the conversation recorded.
  • You suffered some kind of harm or injury as a result of your privacy rights being violated by the defendant.

The use of a cellular phone can change the burden of proof needed to win a CIPA claim. That’s because courts will typically use a strict liability standard when at least one of the participants on the call was using a cell phone. This means that the context and circumstances of the call won’t matter; the court will automatically presume that there was an expectation of privacy. Additionally, strict liability will apply to the defendant even when they did not realize that the other person on the call was using a cell phone.

What Is the Penalty for Invasion of Privacy?

The criminal penalties for violating the California Invasion of Privacy Act (CIPA) include possible jail time and significant fines. Businesses that violate the CIPA may also be exposed to civil penalties when a consumer files a lawsuit in state court.

Criminal Penalties

The CIPA gives criminal prosecutors wide latitude to charge an offense as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the facts of the case. If a CIPA violation is charged as a misdemeanor, the defendant could be sentenced to one year in jail and ordered to pay up to $2,500 in statutory fines for each violation. If the violation is charged as a felony, the possible jail time could increase to three years. Additionally, anyone convicted of a second wiretapping offense could face more substantial fines.

Civil Penalties

The CIPA lists statutory penalties that may be imposed against companies or individuals who violate the statute. The court can order the defendant to pay $5,000 in statutory damages for each illegally recorded conversation, or three (3) times the actual economic damages you suffered because of the privacy breach. The judge in your case will have the option to choose whichever amount is greater: the statutory damages or the actual damages.

Depending on the circumstances of your case, you might also be able to file a right of publicity lawsuit. That’s because right of publicity claims and invasion of privacy claims often overlap, especially when a business attempts to profit from someone else’s image or likeness without consent.

California Invasion of Privacy Statute of Limitations

It is very important that you take immediate action and speak with a qualified consumer protection attorney as soon as you suspect that a company may have violated your privacy during a communication. That’s because the California Invasion of Privacy Act (CIPA) requires plaintiffs to file a civil suit within one (1) year of the date on which the conversation happened. Failure to bring your case before one year has passed could result in your lawsuit being dismissed.

The statute of limitations period typically begins when the plaintiff knew about the defendant’s illegal wiretapping. But what happens when the plaintiff did not learn about the invasion of privacy violation until later? In these cases, the court usually applies a reasonable person standard, which means that the court will attempt to determine the point at which a reasonable person standing in the shoes of the plaintiff would have known about the unlawful act by the defendant. In other words, should the plaintiff have discovered the privacy violation before the statute of limitations expired?

Contact the Los Angeles Consumer Protection Lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP

If a company invaded your privacy by secretly recording a conversation without your permission, you may be eligible to file a civil suit to recover statutory damages. The first step you should take is to speak with an experienced Los Angeles consumer protection attorney at Tauler Smith LLP. We can help you decide how to best proceed with your case.

Call 310-590-3927 or email us today.

Texas Telephone Solicitation Act

Texas Telephone Solicitation Act

Texas Telephone Solicitation Act

Telemarketing is an important tool used by many businesses to generate revenues, but it can also expose consumers to misinformation and fraud. That’s why Texas lawmakers passed important consumer protection laws that explicitly prohibit false, misleading, or deceptive practices. One such law is the Texas Telephone Solicitation Act, which regulates attempts by companies to sell or rent property, products, or services to consumers via telephone solicitation. The law is part of the Texas Business and Commerce Code, which protects consumers against a wide range of fraudulent business practices. The section of the statute governing telephone solicitations is meant to protect purchasers against false, misleading, or deceptive practices on sales calls. When a company makes a sales call, they must abide by the guidelines set forth in the statute. This includes filing a registration statement that contains relevant sales information, as well as making required disclosures to purchasers during telephone solicitations about both the company and the items for sale.

To learn more about the Texas Telephone Solicitation Act and the protections it affords consumers, keep reading this blog.

What Is the Texas Telephone Solicitation Act?

The Telephone Solicitation Act is codified in Texas Bus. & Com. Code, Title 10, Subtitle A, Chapter 302. The statute defines a “telephone solicitation” as a telephone call that is initiated to induce someone to buy, rent, claim, or receive an item. Importantly, the Texas law also covers phone calls made by consumers in response to a solicitation that was sent electronically (e.g., an email) or physically (e.g., a letter in the mail). Moreover, the law applies to calls placed manually, calls initiated by an automatic dialing machine, and calls that involve a recorded messaging device.

Telephone Solicitation Registration Requirements in Texas

The requirements of the Texas Telephone Solicitation Act are strictly enforced, with any violation by a telemarketer possibly triggering both civil and criminal penalties. The statute imposes requirements on companies both during the registration process and when the phone solicitation is made.

Seller Disclosures at Registration

Before making a telephone solicitation, sellers must first fill out a Telephone Solicitation Registration Statement and obtain a registration certificate for their business. Moreover, the registration statement must list each telephone number that will be used by the seller, as well as the specific locations from which any phone solicitations will be made. Other sales information that must be disclosed in the statement includes a copy of all telephone solicitation scripts and other material provided to salespersons, a copy of any written material that might be sent to consumers, and the contact information for outside product suppliers.

The registration statement is filed with the Texas Secretary of State, and it must identify each principal of the seller: owners, executive officers, general partners, trustees, etc. The registration certificate is valid for one year, and it must be renewed annually. Additionally, for every three-month period after the certificate was issued, the business must provide information for each salesperson who solicited on behalf of the business.

One of the most important requirements imposed by the Telephone Solicitation Act is the security requirement: sellers must submit a security deposit in the amount of $10,000. The deposit is meant to ensure that the seller complies with the law. When a seller is found to have violated the statute, the deposit may be used as payment for any penalties imposed by the court.

Seller Disclosures on the Call

In addition to requiring disclosures in the registration statement filed with the state, the Texas Telephone Solicitation Act also compels companies to make certain disclosures to consumers before a purchase is made through a phone solicitation. For example, prior to the finalization of any transaction on a sales call, the seller must provide the consumer with the street address of the building or office from which the call is being made. Additionally, if the seller tells the consumer that the item is being offered at a reduced price, the seller must provide the name of the manufacturer. Along those same lines, if the seller represents that one of the items is a gift or prize, then they also need to clearly state the contest rules.

The Telephone Solicitation Act also places a significant limitation on exactly what telemarketers are allowed to say during a sales call: the caller is not allowed to state or otherwise reference their supposed compliance with the statute. The idea behind this restriction is that sellers should not be able to discourage consumers from investigating on their own to determine whether a seller violated the law by making a deceptive sales call.

How to File a Civil Lawsuit Against a Telemarketer in Texas

Consumers who are defrauded, scammed, or otherwise injured by a telemarketer’s violation of the Telephone Solicitation Act can take legal action. Experienced Texas consumer fraud lawyers know just how strong the statute’s protections are, and they also know how to navigate the legal system to hold businesses accountable for violating the law.

One option available to consumers is to file a civil suit against the company or person who made the sales call. Any individual who suffered economic losses due to a seller breaching an agreement that was entered into during a telephone solicitation may be eligible to recover financial compensation against the seller’s security deposit with the state. It might also be possible for consumers to bring a claim under the Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA) because a violation of the Telephone Solicitation Act qualifies as a violation of the DTPA. Additionally, a person bringing a civil action under either statute may be entitled to compensation for reasonable attorney’s fees and related legal expenses.

Burden of Proof

The protections set forth in the Texas Telephone Solicitation Act are far-reaching and tend to be interpreted broadly by judges. In fact, the statute even stipulates that the burden of proof in these cases will be on the defendant accused of violating the law. For example, in civil proceedings where the defendant argues that they are exempt from the law, the burden of proving the exemption will fall on the defendant. Similarly, a company or individual who faces criminal charges for violating the telephone solicitation law is required to produce evidence supporting their defense that they are exempt from the statute.

Which Sellers Are Exempt from the Texas Telephone Solicitation Act?

Some sellers accused of violating the Telephone Solicitation Act may be able to argue that the consumer protection law does not apply to them, but only in certain situations. Those who may be exempt from the statute include agents of publicly traded companies, sellers for banks or other supervised financial institutions, anyone associated with companies regulated by the Public Utility Commission of Texas, individuals who are already subject to regulation by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and educational institutions or nonprofit organizations that are exempt from taxation by the IRS. In many instances, exemption from the Telephone Solicitation Act is possible because another law or regulation applies instead and takes precedence.

The Texas Business and Commerce Code also includes explicit exemptions from the phone solicitation law for the following categories of sellers:

  • Anyone selling a subscription to a newspaper, magazine, or cable television service.
  • Anyone selling items to a consumer who has consented in advance to receiving periodic deliveries of those items.
  • Individuals or companies delivering catalogs that are distributed in at least one other state and that have a circulation of at least 250,000 customers.
  • Anyone selling items to a business that plans to resell the items.
  • Persons or companies attempting to sell food products.
  • Persons calling about maintenance or repair of an item that was previously purchased from them.
  • Businesses soliciting a former or current customer.

Criminal and Civil Penalties Imposed by the Texas Telephone Solicitation Act

Every individual violation of a provision in the Texas Telephone Solicitation Act is considered a separate offense, which means that the penalties can add up very quickly even when the offenses stem from a single sales call. Beyond that, there can be both civil and criminal penalties imposed against sellers who violate the statute.

Criminal Penalties

Violations that may be charged as criminal offenses include failing to obtain the necessary registration certificate before making a phone solicitation, failing to make necessary disclosures to the consumer before finalizing a sale, and mentioning compliance with the statute on the sales call. Each of these offenses can be charged as a class A misdemeanor, which carries a possible fine of $4,000 and a sentence of up to one year in jail. Moreover, these criminal penalties can be imposed against both the business owner and the salesperson or telemarketer who made the call. Additionally, the defendant in a criminal action may be ordered to pay the costs of prosecuting the case, including the attorney general’s expenses for the investigation, depositions, witnesses, and related attorney’s fees.

Civil Penalties

Sellers who violate a provision in the Texas Telephone Solicitation Act are also subject to civil penalties. These penalties can be substantial, with the statute calling for a fine of up to $5,000 for each violation. The penalties become even harsher when the seller violates an injunction brought by the secretary of state for a previous offense: a $25,000 fine for each subsequent violation, plus an additional $50,000 fine for all violations after the injunction was issued.

Contact the Texas Consumer Protection Lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP

Did you receive a telemarketing call from a person who failed to identify themselves, their business, or their reason for calling? Did the telemarketer’s attempts to sell you something feel like part of a scam? The Texas Telephone Solicitation Act gives consumers the ability to take legal action by notifying the secretary of state and possibly filing a civil suit, and the Texas consumer protection attorneys at Tauler Smith LLP can help you.

Call 972-920-6040 or email us today to discuss your case.

NY Automatic Renewal Law

New York’s Automatic Renewal Law

NY Automatic Renewal Law

New York’s Automatic Renewal Law (ARL) protects consumers by prohibiting businesses from engaging in certain practices when making an automatic renewal offer in the state. The New York ARL tracks California’s strict statutory requirements, which means that businesses must follow guidelines about disclosing renewal offer terms to consumers, giving customers the opportunity to affirmatively consent before they sign up for an auto-renewal program, and allowing customers to easily cancel their subscription afterwards. NY consumers who have enrolled in a subscription program without their consent should immediately reach out to a qualified New York false advertising attorney who understands both state and federal laws on auto-renewal offers.

To learn more about the New York automatic renewal law, keep reading this blog.

NY Automatic Renewal Bill: SB 1475

New York’s Automatic Renewal Law (ARL) is set forth in New York State Senate Bill S1475A. The law went into effect in February 2021 after being passed by the New York State Legislature and signed by NY Governor Andrew Cuomo. SB 1475 greatly expanded the scope of the state’s previous automatic renewal law, New York General Obligations Law § 5-903. The new ARL added substantial requirements for businesses that offer either automatic renewal plans or continuous service plans to consumers, including a stricter requirement that businesses notify consumers of the subscription terms after enrollment. Additionally, SB 1475 expanded the old law’s scope beyond service, maintenance, and repair contracts to also include consumer contracts involving “any goods, services, money, or credit for personal, family, or household purposes.”

New York businesses that offer auto-renewal subscription services to consumers must comply with SB 1475, relevant federal laws, and any other state ARLs which may be applicable if the purchase was made online by an out-of-state customer. Additionally, these businesses must also comply with New York’s older ARL, which remains in effect even after the passage of the new law.

New York ARL Requirements for Businesses

The New York ARL imposes the following requirements on businesses that offer consumer contracts for automatically renewing subscription services:

  • Auto-renewal terms must be conspicuous. The auto-renewal terms should be in visual proximity to the section where the consumer provides affirmative consent, and the terms should also stand out visually from the rest of the offer. (E.g., different text sizes, different fonts, and different colors.)
  • Auto-renewal terms must be clear. The terms and conditions of the subscription service must be easy for the consumer to understand. The exact language used by the NY ARL is that the offer terms should be presented “in a manner capable of being retained by the consumer.” (E.g., the offer should clearly state that the subscription will continue until the purchaser cancels.)
  • Must obtain affirmative consent from purchaser. The customer needs to affirmatively consent to the automatic renewal terms before it becomes a legally binding contract. Otherwise, NY law stipulates that any goods received by the consumer are an “unconditional gift” and do not need to be paid for.
  • Must send enrollment acknowledgement to consumer. After the customer has enrolled in the subscription program, the business needs to send a letter, email, or other type of written acknowledgement that states the program’s terms and cancelation policy.
  • Cancelation policy must match method used to subscribe. When a customer uses a company’s website to enroll in a subscription program, the company must allow the customer to cancel online.
  • Free trial offers must have cancelation options. If the company offers a “free” trial period before the subscription automatically renews for a monthly fee, the company needs to provide the consumer with the ability to opt out of the paid subscription service. Additionally, the cancelation policy must be presented clearly and conspicuously in the original agreement.
  • Must disclose any material changes to the agreement. It is common for businesses to modify their agreements later. But if a business wants to change the terms of an auto-renewal plan, they must have already alerted the consumer to this possibility in the original offer. Moreover, when making material changes to its subscription plan, the business must disclose those changes to the consumer and give the consumer an easy way to cancel their subscription.

Defenses Available to Businesses Accused of Violating the NY ARL

Although New York’s ARL provides strong protections to consumers who enroll in auto-renewal plans, there are some exceptions to the law that allow businesses to raise possible defenses against an alleged violation. For instance, the new ARL only applies to contracts for subscriptions involving consumers; business-to-business contract are addressed by the state’s old ARL.

SB 1475 also has a “safe harbor” provision that gives companies a possible defense when the violation was unintentional. If the company can show that they made a bona fide error despite taking reasonable measures to comply with the law, the New York Attorney General may choose not to bring charges.

What Remedies Are Available to Consumers in NY ARL Cases?

Compliance with the New York ARL is enforced by the NY Attorney General. The statute gives the state Attorney General authority to fine businesses as much as $100 for each violation of the auto-renewal law. When the violation was knowing and intentional, the fine can be increased to $500 for each violation. For companies with popular services and large subscription bases, these fines can add up quickly and serve as an effective deterrent against further abuse.

The individual consumers who enrolled in the unlawful subscription services also stand to benefit financially under New York’s auto-renewal law. That’s because the statute specifies that consumers who receive a service or product without providing affirmative consent for enrollment in the subscription program will not have to pay for the goods or services received. Additionally, they may be eligible to join a consumer class action lawsuit brought under one of the state’s consumer protection laws.

Contact the New York False Advertising Lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP

Tauler Smith LLP is a law firm that represents clients in consumer fraud litigation throughout the United States, including New York. Our experienced NY false advertising lawyers have filed complaints on behalf of clients in both federal and state court, and we know how to win these cases. Call or email us to speak with a member of our litigation team.

California Automatic Renewal Law

California’s Automatic Renewal Law

California Automatic Renewal LawThe explosion of the internet and e-commerce has led many businesses to offer their products and services through online subscription services. This has made it easier for consumers to quickly make purchases from their phone or computer, and it has also made it easier for companies to lock customers into subscriptions that renew automatically. These auto-renewal plans become problematic when companies use them to take advantage of customers who might not realize what they are signing up for. California’s Automatic Renewal Law (ARL) was a direct response to this problem, with state lawmakers codifying strong protections for consumers in these situations that go even further than federal laws on recurring contracts. The California ARL specifically requires businesses to disclose all relevant subscription terms to customers, get consent from the customers before charging their credit cards, and provide customers with a way to easily cancel the contract.

To learn more about the California automatic renewal law, keep reading.

What Requirements Does California’s ARL Impose on Businesses?

Automatic renewal subscriptions affecting California consumers are governed by the state’s Automatic Renewal Law (ARL), which is set forth in Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code §§ 17600. The California ARL requires companies to clearly and conspicuously explain “automatic renewal offer terms.” State legislators passed the law for the purpose of stopping companies from continually charging consumer credit or debit cards without the consumers’ explicit consent for ongoing shipments of products or ongoing provision of services.

When a business violates the ARL by failing to properly disclose information about an auto-renewal offer, it may be possible for the customer to file a consumer fraud lawsuit and seek financial compensation from the business. If you have been billed for an automatically renewing subscription that you did not want to be enrolled in, your first step should be to speak with a California false advertising lawyer.

What Information Must Be Disclosed in California Auto-Renewal Offers?

California’s Automatic Renewal Law (ARL) is among the most consumer-friendly in the entire country, with other states modeling their own ARLs after it. In fact, federal agencies like the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are now revising their own recurring contract rules to work in tandem with California’s auto-renewal law.

The California ARL requires companies to disclose the following information before a customer enrolls in an automatic subscription program:

  1. That the subscription will continue until the consumer cancels.
  2. A description of the policy for canceling the subscription.
  3. Any recurring charges that will be charged to the consumer’s credit card, debit card, or bank account as part of the automatic renewal plan, as well as whether the amount of the charge may change and how often the consumer will be billed.
  4. The length of the automatic renewal term. (If the service is continuous, this must also be disclosed.)
  5. Any minimum purchase obligation.

“Clear and Conspicuous” Disclosures Required Under California’s ARL

Importantly, section 17602 of the California ARL requires that the automatic renewal offer terms must be presented to the consumer both before the purchasing contract is fulfilled and after enrollment in the form of an email or other post-sale acknowledgement. There can be no concealing of the auto-renewal offer at any point in the process. Moreover, there can be no attempts by the company to thwart or frustrate a customer’s attempts to cancel the subscription. That’s because the ARL explicitly requires businesses to provide a “cost-effective, timely, and easy-to-use mechanism for cancelation.”

Additionally, those disclosures must be plainly visible and obvious to the customer. In fact, there are strict guidelines for the manner in which the information is presented. For example, the terms of the automatic subscription service must be in “visual proximity” to the request for consent to the offer. Those terms must also be presented “clearly and conspicuously” so that they can be distinguished from the rest of the offer. This means that the text of the auto-renewal offer should be:

  • In larger type than the surrounding text.
  • In contrasting type, font, or color to the surrounding text of the same size.
  • Set off from the surrounding text of the same size by symbols or other marks in a manner that clearly calls attention to the language.

Remedies Available Under California’s Auto-Renewal Law

What happens when a company violates the California Automatic Renewal Law (ARL) by failing to clearly and conspicuously disclose the terms and conditions of a subscription service? The answer to this question depends on the facts and circumstances of your particular case, which is why it’s important for you to speak with a Los Angeles false advertising attorney who has knowledge of both state and federal automatic renewal laws, as well as other applicable California consumer protection laws like the Consumers Legal Remedies Act (CLRA) and the far-reaching Unfair Competition Law (UCL). An experienced attorney may be able to force the company to stop its misleading sale and advertisement of services, in addition to helping you get full restitution of any expenses you’ve already incurred. In some cases, you may also be entitled to additional financial compensation for your losses or harm suffered.

Call the Los Angeles False Advertising Lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP

Tauler Smith LLP is a Los Angeles law firm that focuses on consumer fraud litigation, including violations of the California Automatic Renewal Law (ARL). Our false advertising lawyers represent plaintiffs in lawsuits filed against companies that misrepresent or fail to disclose the terms of their monthly subscription contracts. Call 310-590-3927 or email us to schedule a free consultation.

Macy’s Beauty Box Lawsuit

Macy’s Faces Lawsuit for Beauty Box Automatic Subscription

Macy’s Beauty Box Lawsuit

High-end department store Macy’s faces a lawsuit for its Beauty Box automatic subscription service. The company has been accused of violating consumer protection laws by using deceptive practices to enroll customers in an auto-renewal program for one of its popular beauty product services. Law firm Tauler Smith LLP believes that many people have probably fallen victim to Macy’s allegedly unlawful subscription practices. Since a lot of states like New York, California, and others have strict laws regulating automatic renewals, anyone who purchased the Macy’s Beauty Box from the Macys.com website may be able to file a lawsuit for financial compensation.

Tauler Smith LLP is looking to certify a class of plaintiffs nationwide for a class action lawsuit against Macy’s. If you purchased the Macy’s Beauty Box and were later charged for an ongoing subscription to which you did not consent, you should contact one of our lawyers immediately.

Macy’s Accused of Consumer Fraud

Macy’s Beauty Box is a monthly subscription package of deluxe beauty samples and beauty-related products that has attracted many customers. Unfortunately, the Beauty Box program’s terms and conditions are not always made clear to customers, which has exposed Macy’s to being named as a defendant in lawsuits in California, New York, and other states with strong consumer protection laws. For instance, the automatic renewal terms of Macy’s Beauty Box subscription program may be a violation of both the California Consumers Legal Remedies Act (CLRA) and the California Automatic Renewal Law (ARL). Specifically, Macy’s is enrolling customers into an automatic renewal subscription without providing the clear and conspicuous disclosures required by California law.

Some consumers may be unaware that they are being enrolled in an auto-renewal program when purchasing the Macy’s Beauty Box from the store’s website. For example, at least one customer has complained that she did not notice a second charge appearing on her credit card more than one month after her initial purchase. In fact, the entire checkout process on Macys.com appears to be designed to conceal the nature of the automatically renewing subscription and recurring charges. This could make it a clear violation of state consumer fraud laws, including automatic renewal laws.

Does Macy’s Beauty Box Subscription Service Violate Auto-Renewal Laws?

Macy’s, Inc. has been accused of committing numerous violations of automatic renewal laws, including the following:

  • Failure to clearly and conspicuously disclose auto-renewal terms.
  • Failure to disclose when and how often customers will be automatically billed.
  • Failure to inform customers of cancelation policy.
  • Making it difficult for customers to cancel subscription.
  • Failure to send email or other notification to customers after enrollment.

Clear & Conspicuous Disclosure

Macy’s has been accused of failing to clearly and conspicuously disclose its automatic renewal terms to customers who purchase the Macy’s Beauty Box on the store’s website. Although online customers check a box to indicate consent to be enrolled into a monthly subscription service, this box is not clear and conspicuous in the manner required by California’s ARL. For example, Macy’s does not present the auto-renewal offer terms in a larger type font than the surrounding text, nor is the text in the box distinguishable from the surrounding text via contrasting type, font, or color.

One way that Macy’s could have more clearly called attention to the automatic subscription language is by using bold, highlighted, all-capitalized, or different-colored text for the automatic renewal terms. Macy’s also could have employed a “call out” box near the terms so that the subscription enrollment contract was distinct from the product purchase agreement.

Timing of Automatic Charges

Macy’s does not adequately disclose the timing of the automatic charges. For example, the store represents that its customers will be automatically charged “monthly,” but the actual charges to consumers appear to occur in arbitrary intervals. For example, at least one customer was charged on her credit card 49 days after the initial charge.

Cancelation Policy

Macy’s does not adequately disclose how a customer can cancel their subscription. This information could be disclosed either directly on the Macy’s website or in an email sent to the customer after enrollment in the subscription service.

Frustrating Attempts to Cancel Subscription

Macy’s has failed to make it easy for a customer to cancel the subscription. In fact, it appears that Macy’s has intentionally made the cancelation process difficult and frustrating in the hopes that customers will abandon trying to cancel their subscriptions.

Email Acknowledgement After Enrollment

Macy’s fails to send an ARL-compliant retainable acknowledgement consistent with state consumer protection laws. When a customer enrolls in the Beauty Box subscription program, they do not receive an email from Macy’s that accurately explains the terms and conditions of the service. The absence of an email also means that customers are not informed of the policy for canceling the subscription. By failing to provide a permanently retainable post-transaction acknowledgement that allows for cancelation before payment, Macy’s is effectively concealing the nature of the agreement and violating state automatic renewal laws meant to protect consumers.

Macy’s Accused of Violating California’s Consumers Legal Remedies Act (CLRA)

In addition to possibly violating state automatic renewal laws, Macy’s has also been accused of violating broader consumer protection laws, such as the California Consumers Legal Remedies Act (CLRA). In California, a violation of the ARL can form the basis for a CLRA claim, as well as a claim under California’s Unfair Competition Law. One of the unlawful business practices that Macy’s has been accused of is failing to include a clear and conspicuous explanation of the price that will be charged for its Beauty Box subscription service. Another more general accusation against Macy’s is that the company fails to first obtain affirmative consent from customers before charging their credit and debit cards. All of these practices constitute violations of the ARL, which means that affected consumers may also be able to file lawsuits under the CLRA and other statutes like the Unfair Competition Law (UCL).

Tauler Smith LLP Pursuing Class Action Lawsuit Against Macy’s for ARL Violations

Tauler Smith LLP is a law firm that represents consumers in false advertising claims involving automatic subscription renewals in California, New York, and nationwide. The law firm also files ARL claims on behalf of consumers in federal courts. We suspect that thousands of consumers may have been illegally enrolled in Macy’s Beauty Box subscription program in violation of both state and federal ARL laws. Our consumer protection lawyers are actively seeking plaintiffs for a possible class action lawsuit against Macy’s. The lawsuit seeks the following remedies on behalf of affected consumers:

  • Full financial restitution to all purchasers throughout the United States of all purchase money obtained from the sales of Macy’s services and products that violate automatic renewal laws.
  • Monetary compensation for any damages suffered by consumers because of Macy’s unlawful business practices.
  • Punitive damages for knowing and egregious violations.
  • An injunction ordering Macy’s to cease and desist from the continued misleading sale and advertisement of its Beauty Box services.
  • A corrective advertising campaign by Macy’s to inform consumers about the true price of any services they purchase, including any automatically renewing charges in connection with those services.
  • Payment by Macy’s of all reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs related to the lawsuit.
  • Additions to the Macy’s website that include a clear and conspicuous explanation of the amount customers will be charged for the Macy’s Beauty Box subscription service.
  • The inclusion of a mechanism for obtaining customers’ affirmative consent before Macy’s charges their credit and debit cards.
  • An email or other post-transaction acknowledgement sent by Macy’s to customers that will allow for cancelation of the subscription service before the first payment.

Did You Purchase the Macy’s Beauty Box? Contact the False Advertising Lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP

Were you enrolled in a monthly subscription service after purchasing the Macy’s Beauty Box, or any other product, from the Macys.com website? The false advertising attorneys at Tauler Smith LLP represent plaintiffs in pre-trial settlement negotiations and at trial, and we have helped countless clients achieve successful outcomes that include restitution and financial compensation. We are looking for plaintiffs nationwide in a possible class action lawsuit against Macy’s.

Call or email us to discuss your eligibility to join the lawsuit.

Anxiety Supplement Lawsuit

Natrol Class Action for Anxiety Supplements

Anxiety Supplement Lawsuit

Tauler Smith LLP, a California law firm focusing on consumer fraud litigation, recently filed a class action complaint against supplement manufacturer Natrol LLC. The Natrol class action for anxiety supplements complaint asserts that Natrol is violating the Consumers Legal Remedies Act (CLRA) by marketing its Relax+ Ultimate Calm supplement as a remedy for anxiety when it contains “ineffectual herbs, extracts, and other vitamins that plainly do not have the ability to treat anxiety.” The nutritional supplement lawsuit also alleges that when an individual uses unapproved anxiety medications like Relax+ Ultimate Calm instead of seeking treatment from a licensed doctor, they could worsen their mental health.

The Los Angeles false advertising lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP are bringing civil actions against companies that market and sell dietary supplements claiming to remedy anxiety. If you purchased one of these supplements, you may be eligible to join a class action lawsuit. Contact us today to discuss your options.

Nutritional Supplement Manufacturers Endanger Consumers with Unapproved Anxiety Drugs

Anxiety is a recognized mental disorder. When a person suffers from anxiety, they may be stricken with feelings of worry or fear while attempting to perform everyday activities. This is a major mental health concern for millions of Americans, with statistics showing that more than 40 million U.S. adults are affected by anxiety disorders. This includes millions of young children and teenagers who struggle with mental health problems.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the best way to treat an anxiety disorder is with medications prescribed by a licensed physician and psychotherapy provided by a mental health counselor. Additionally, the National Institute of Public Health (NIH) has stated that individuals should not self-diagnose or use over-the-counter supplements to treat anxiety. The nutritional supplement industry has attempted to capitalize on the country’s worsening mental health crisis in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic by making unsupported claims regarding the ability of their products to relieve conditions like anxiety. When anxiety is left untreated, it can be ruinous to individuals and lead to more serious conditions and diseases.

Natrol Accused of False Advertising of the Relax+ Ultimate Calm Supplement as a Remedy for Anxiety

Natrol is a U.S. manufacturer of vitamins, minerals, and nutritional supplements. The company’s headquarters are in Chatsworth, California. According to Dun & Bradstreet, Natrol’s annual revenues surpass $121 million, which is part of the $140 billion market for dietary supplements.

The complaint alleges that Natrol puts consumers at risk by advertising its Relax+ Ultimate Calm supplement as a treatment for anxiety. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning about the use of unapproved drugs to treat anxiety. Consumers who place their trust in nutritional supplement manufacturers may be more likely to forego seeking medical treatment for their health conditions, which can compound the effects of the disorders. Additionally, these individuals may be more likely to develop other mental and physical conditions because anxiety can cause depression, substance misuse, social isolation, and suicide.

Supplements Claiming to Treat Anxiety Violate the California Consumers Legal Remedies Act

The California Consumers Legal Remedies Act (CLRA) is a consumer protection statute that is meant to safeguard individuals against business fraud, including “unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in a transaction.” The CLRA, which is codified in Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1750, makes it illegal for companies to mislead consumers in advertising or sales transactions. The statute explicitly prohibits companies from “representing that goods…have…characteristics, ingredients, uses, benefits, or quantities that they do not have.” Plaintiffs can bring private civil actions under the CLRA when they have been deceived by the acts or practices of a company in the sale of consumer goods such as nutritional or dietary supplements.

Natrol has been accused of making unsupported claims about the ability of its Relax+ Ultimate Calm product to relieve anxiety. On the product packaging, Natrol prominently represents that use of the Relax+ Ultimate Calm supplement will reduce “stress, anxiety & tension” and offer other health benefits. According to the complaint, these representations are untrue and unlawful.

Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against Natrol for Violating the CLRA

The Los Angeles business fraud attorneys at Tauler Smith LLP have brought a class action lawsuit against Natrol for violating the CLRA. The legal complaint was filed in the Los Angeles County Superior Court. The complaint explains that an individual who consumes the Relax+ Ultimate Calm product “in lieu of a professional medical evaluation and treatment” is at risk of exacerbating their anxiety, as well as developing additional mental health disorders. Anyone who purchased the Relax+ Ultimate Calm supplement may be eligible to join the class action.

The class action lawsuit against Natrol seeks relief and judgment that includes the following:

  • An injunction that orders Natrol to correct its alleged deceptive marketing scheme and stop claiming that Relax+ Ultimate Calm is a remedy for anxiety.
  • An award of actual, punitive, and statutory damages to compensate the plaintiffs who purchased Relax+ Ultimate Calm.
  • Reimbursement of attorney’s fees for the plaintiffs.
  • Any other relief that the court may deem just and proper.

Did You Buy a Supplement That Claims to Treat Anxiety? Contact a California Consumer Fraud Lawyer Today

The California consumer fraud attorneys at Tauler Smith LLP are committed to protecting consumers against deceptive business practices. If you purchased a dietary supplement that claims to remedy anxiety, you should contact our legal team today to discuss your eligibility to join a class action lawsuit. Call 310-590-3927 or email us to schedule a free consultation.

Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act

Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act

Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act

Texas has strong consumer protection laws that safeguard residents against scams, deceptive sales calls, and other illegal practices. Chief among these laws is the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA), which gives plaintiffs the ability to recover additional damages when they have been defrauded by false, misleading, or deceptive business practices. When state lawmakers passed the DTPA, the intent behind the bill was that companies should think twice before committing any kind of fraud against consumers. Texas consumer protection lawyers know just how effective the DTPA can be at holding fraudsters accountable for their unethical actions.

To learn more about the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, keep reading this blog.

What Is the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act?

The Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, or DTPA, is a consumer protection law that prohibits businesses from making false or misleading statements in advertisements, contracts, and any transactions involving consumers. The DTPA gives consumers a cause of action for a civil suit when they have been misled by a business. The text of the statute casts a wide net by explicitly forbidding businesses from knowingly deceiving customers in advertisements, marketing materials, and sales transactions. This includes “false, misleading, and deceptive business practices, unconscionable actions, and breaches of warranty.”

The DTPA applies to several different types of consumer transactions, including the sale or lease of commercial goods, products, services, or property. The Texas DTPA law has a lengthy list of examples of deceptive business acts, including the following:

  • Passing off goods or services as those of another.
  • Confusing consumers about the true source of goods or services.
  • Lying about the certification status of a product or service.
  • Misrepresenting whether a product or service has received sponsorship or approval.
  • Lying about the geographic origin of goods or services.
  • Misrepresenting the ingredients of goods such as food products or nutritional supplements.
  • Selling an item as “new” when the product is used or reconditioned.
  • Lying about the quality or grade of a product.
  • Using misleading statements to disparage a competitor’s goods or services.
  • Advertising items as available for sale when they are unavailable or there is only a limited supply.
  • Lying about the reasons for a price reduction.
  • Misrepresenting the need for additional parts, replacement, or repairs.
  • Falsely presenting a salesperson as having the authority to negotiate final terms of a transaction.
  • Secretly resetting the odometer on a motor vehicle for sale.
  • Lying about a “going out of business” sale when the store is not going out of business.
  • Using “corporation” or “incorporated” in the name of a business when it has not been incorporated.
  • Falsely representing that a solicitation has been sent on behalf of a governmental entity.
  • Price gouging during a natural disaster.

Additional Damages Available Under the DTPA

The damages and compensation that may be available to plaintiffs filing lawsuits under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act include actual damages (i.e., economic damages), mental anguish damages, and attorney’s fees. The actual damages could involve things like the money spent on the purchase, as well as repair or replacement costs after the transaction.

Additionally, when a plaintiff in a DTPA case wins their claim, they may be eligible for up to three (3) times the usual damages awarded in a Texas civil suit.

Mental Anguish Damages

If the judge or jury finds that the defendant knowingly deceived the plaintiff, then it may be possible for the plaintiff to receive an award for mental anguish damages. The ability to recover damages for mental anguish is unique in DTPA claims because business transactions typically don’t involve the same kinds of mental or emotional harms as personal injury and wrongful death claims.

Treble Damages

The DTPA also allows for the recovery of treble damages, which means that the judge may impose a multiplier on the judgment or ruling and award up to three times the damages amount. When a defendant’s conduct is deemed egregious, it is not uncommon for plaintiffs to be awarded significantly higher damages as a way of sending a message and discouraging unethical behavior by other businesses in the future.

DTPA Waiting Period & Deadlines

Texas law requires victims of business fraud to wait at least 60 days before filing a DTPA lawsuit. The statute specifically requires plaintiffs to send a demand letter to the business owner or individual so that they have an opportunity to address the alleged fraud and potentially resolve the matter before a legal claim is necessary. Once 60 days have passed since the demand letter was sent to the defendant, then the plaintiff may choose to formally file their lawsuit in a Texas court.

Just as there is a waiting period on the front end of any DTPA claim, there is also a time limit for the plaintiff to take legal action. The deadline for a consumer to file a DTPA lawsuit is two (2) years from the date on which the false or deceptive business practice occurred. This statute of limitations is half the time that a plaintiff typically has available to file a breach of contract lawsuit in Texas.

Contact the Texas Consumer Fraud Lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP

The Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA) gives Texas consumers the right to file a lawsuit and pursue damages when they have been victimized by a scammer or fraudulent business. If you have been misled or deceived in a commercial transaction, the Texas consumer fraud attorneys at Tauler Smith LLP can help you file a DTPA claim. Call 972-920-6040 or email us today to go over your options.

CLRA Consumer Protection

What Is the Consumers Legal Remedies Act?

CLRA Consumer Protection

California consumer fraud lawyers know that the state has been at the forefront of the consumer rights movement for a long time. In 1970, the California State Legislature passed the Consumers Legal Remedies Act (CLRA) to safeguard customers against deception by businesses. The CLRA makes it unlawful to engage in unfair or misleading acts when selling goods or services to consumers. The CLRA is often applicable in cases involving false advertising claims and/or consumer fraud. For example, when a company uses a misleading advertisement to persuade someone to purchase a product or service, the misrepresentation may constitute a violation of both the CLRA and the Unfair Competition Law (UCL). The same is true when a deceptive or intentionally confusing ad causes a customer to trigger an automatic renewal policy.

To learn more about the Consumers Legal Remedies Act, keep reading this blog.

What Deceptive Business Practices Does the CLRA Prohibit?

The California Consumers Legal Remedies Act, or CLRA, is a consumer statute that’s codified in Cal. Civil Code §§ 1750. The law allows plaintiffs to bring private civil actions against companies that use “unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in a transaction.”

The CLRA explicitly prohibits certain deceptive business practices, including the following acts:

  • Selling counterfeit goods.
  • Misrepresenting the source of a good or service.
  • Lying about a professional affiliation, certification, or endorsement.
  • Lying about the geographic origin of a product.
  • Selling a used or reconditioned item as new.
  • Misrepresenting the quality of a good or service.
  • Making false statements that disparage another business’ products.
  • Advertising items as being available for sale when they won’t be.
  • Advertising furniture as available for sale without disclosing that it is unassembled.
  • Telling a customer that a repair or replacement is necessary when it isn’t.
  • Offering a rebate or discount with hidden conditions.
  • Falsely presenting a salesperson’s authority to negotiate and finalize a transaction.
  • “Robo-calling” individuals who are not already customers.

One of the advantages of the CLRA is that victims of business fraud in California are not limited to filing lawsuits under the statute. This means that a consumer could bring multiple claims citing both the CLRA and other state or federal laws.

What Remedies Are Available to California Consumers in CLRA Cases?

The CLRA gives California consumers a powerful tool to hold businesses accountable for deceptive practices because the statute allows plaintiffs to recover different kinds of damages. The law is often interpreted broadly by courts to provide strong protections against consumer fraud, false advertising, and unfair business practices. When a consumer has been defrauded, they can file a lawsuit in a California Superior Court.

Consumers who bring a claim under the CLRA may pursue several remedies for any harm they suffered, including:

  • Actual monetary damages.
  • Punitive damages.
  • Restitution of property to the plaintiff.
  • An injunction against the defendant.
  • Attorney’s fees and court costs.
  • Any other relief the court deems proper.

Actual Damages & Attorney’s Fees

The first remedy available under the CLRA – actual damages – has a statutory minimum of $1,000 for each deceptive act or practice. The last remedy – “any other relief the court deems proper” – is a catch-all provision that gives courts wide latitude when determining what kind of monetary relief should be available to plaintiffs in CLRA actions.

In addition to getting damages for fraud, a plaintiff filing a claim under the CLRA may also be able to get attorney’s fees from a defendant who is found to have violated the Act. This can make it financially feasible for a plaintiff to bring a CLRA claim – since the defendant would have to pay the legal costs for both sides if they lose the case.

Additional Damages for Senior Citizens & Disabled Persons

A couple of special categories of consumers may be eligible for additional damages: senior citizens and disabled persons. As set forth by the CLRA, a “senior citizen” is defined as anyone over the age of 65. (In California, a senior citizen is usually defined as anyone over the age of 62, with the age threshold being lowered to 55 years old when the person lives in a senior citizen housing development.) California law defines “disabled person” quite broadly to include just about anyone who has a physical or mental condition that substantially limits at least one major life activity. For both seniors and disabled persons, the CLRA allows an award of up to $5,000 in damages to be tacked on by the court.

Proving a CLRA Violation

Although the Consumers Legal Remedies Act gives plaintiffs many options when seeking damages for consumer fraud, there are still ways for defendants to avoid paying maximum compensation. For example, if the defendant did not intentionally violate the CLRA, and they subsequently made a good faith attempt to correct the mistake, then the court might not award damages to the plaintiff. The complexities of the statute are one reason why it’s so important for you to have a knowledgeable California business fraud attorney handling your case.

Who Is Allowed to Bring a Lawsuit Under the Consumers Legal Remedies Act?

Private Civil Actions & Class Actions

The CLRA may serve as the basis for a civil suit in any consumer transaction where goods changed hands or services were provided, including transactions with a shipping insurance surcharge. Anyone who can show damages having been caused by one of the acts prohibited by the CLRA can file a lawsuit, either individually by the consumer or in a class action involving other consumers who were deceived or defrauded. For class action litigation, the cases must be substantially similar. An experienced California consumer protection lawyer can assist you with a CLRA class action lawsuit and help get your class certified.

Exclusions from the CLRA

Certain types of transactions and business owners are excluded from the Consumers Legal Remedies Act: (1) real estate transactions, and (2) newspapers and other advertisers. Although the CLRA applies to most commercial transactions, the statute cannot be used as the basis for a legal claim when the transaction involved the sale of either a residential property or a commercial property. Additionally, the CLRA cannot be used to bring a lawsuit against the owner of a newspaper, magazine, radio station, or any other advertising medium unless the plaintiff can prove that the business owner knew that the ads were deceptive before disseminating them.

How Long Do You Have to Bring a CLRA Claim?

Three-Year Statute of Limitations

It is important for you to speak with a qualified CLRA attorney as soon as possible because you do not want the statute of limitations to expire before you attempt to bring a claim. The general rule is that a consumer has three (3) years from the date on which the unfair business practice occurred to file a lawsuit under the Consumers Legal Remedies Act. If you miss this deadline, you may be barred from bringing a legal action.

Business Owner’s Opportunity to Cure

In addition to making sure you file within the statute of limitations, an experienced attorney can also ensure that you meet any other important deadlines and filing requirements. For example, before the CLRA suit can proceed in court, the consumer must notify the defendant in writing about the alleged violation. This must happen at least 30 days before the lawsuit is filed, and the business owner will then have an opportunity to take appropriate action to fix or otherwise “cure” the harm. (E.g., repairing or replacing a damaged item that was sold to the consumer.)

Defending Against CLRA Claims in California

It is very important for injured consumers to have an experienced consumer protection attorney handling their case throughout the legal process. The same is true for businesses that are accused of consumer fraud or false advertising. If you have been sued for allegedly violating a California consumer protection law like the CLRA, you need to speak with a qualified defense attorney as soon as possible.

Contact the California CLRA Lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP

Tauler Smith LLP is a Los Angeles law firm that focuses on consumer fraud litigation. Our attorneys are extremely familiar with the Consumers Legal Remedies Act, and we have filed both private civil actions and class action lawsuits on behalf of consumers. If you were a victim of business fraud or false advertising in California, we can help you take legal action and get you the financial compensation to which you are entitled. Call or email us to discuss your eligibility to file a CLRA claim.