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.
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 or email us today to go over your options.