Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (or DUTPA) provides consumers and businesses protection from unscrupulous types of conduct in the transaction of business. DUTPA prohibits “unfair methods of competition, unconscionable acts or practices, and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of any trade or commerce.” Fla. Stat. sect. 501.204(1). The Florida Attorney General’s Office is the “enforcing authority” for the statute, and it is often used to investigate and file civil claims against the perpetrators of pyramid schemes, telephone scams, false advertising, and similar claims. The Act also gives consumers and businesses the ability to sue offending people and businesses in a private lawsuit.
What is a Deceptive Act or Unfair Trade Practice?
An action for violation of the Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act requires that the Plaintiff’s attorney prove:
- A deceptive act or unfair practice;
- Causation; and
- Actual damages.
So exactly what qualifies as a deceptive or unfair trade practice? Florida courts and DUTPA lawyers have determined that a deceptive act is an act that is “likely to mislead a consumer.” A claim under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act does not require that the injured party relied on the deception or misinformation, unlike a claim for fraud. The Act only requires an objective standard, that is, would the act deceive a consumer who was acting reasonably under the same circumstances? An unfair trade practice is offensive to established public policy, or as one court put it, is “immoral, unethical, oppressive, unscrupulous or substantially injurious to consumers.”
Although the DUTPA does not define any specific deceptive acts or unfair trade practices, it does look to the federal FTC act for guidance, which does list some specifics, including:
- false advertising,
- false labels on products,
- deceptive car buying practices,
- ID theft, and
- internet and telemarketing scams
The DUTPA allows a plaintiff’s attorney to sue for actual damages and also for declaratory and injunctive relief. Actual damages has been interpreted to mean only the difference in value between what the product or service should have been, less what the actual value of the product or services turned out to be in reality. There is a small exception to the measure of actual damages in the event the value of the product or service is zero, in which case the purchase price is the appropriate measure of damages. The Act does not allow the recovery of incidental or consequential damages.
A Single Deceptive Act or Unfair Trade Practice
Under the DUTPA, there does not have to be a series of deceptive acts, and the unfair trade practice does not need to go on for any minimum period of time. Florida courts have held that one single deceptive act is sufficient, or one unfair trade practice.
Attorney’s Fees Under the DUTPA
Section 501.2105 of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act gives the law teeth by allowing a successful plaintiff to recover the attorney’s fees and costs incurred.
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Consult With an Experienced Orlando Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act Attorney
If you have been damaged by a deceptive act or unfair trade practice then you should consult an experienced Orlando DUTPA attorney at The Spence Law Firm to discuss your case.
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