Consumers should be able to count on the legitimacy of their transactions as well as operate on the assumption that the information they received about the service or product involved in the transaction was truthful. When that is not the case, an individual or business may be able to recover damages in an unfair business practices lawsuit.
The Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUTPA)
Modeled after its federal counterpart, the Federal Trade Commission Act, FDUTPA was enacted to “protect the consuming public and legitimate business enterprises from those who engage in unfair methods of competition, or unconscionable, deceptive, or unfair acts or practices in the conduct of any trade or commerce.”
Although the FDUTPA does not define “unfair methods of competition, or unconscionable, deceptive, or unfair acts or practices,” Florida courts have provided some guidance. Specifically, a deceptive practice is one that is likely to mislead consumers while an unfair practice is one that offends established public policy and that is immoral, unethical, oppressive, unscrupulous or substantially injurious to consumers. Samuels v. King Motor Co. of Boca Raton, 782 So.2d 489, 499 (Fla. 4th DCA 2001); Davis v. Powertel, Inc., 776 So.2d 971, 974 (Fla. 1st DCA 2000).
Examples of acts or practices that might give rise to a claim of unfair business practices include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Including unauthorized charges on a bill
- False or misleading advertising
- Misrepresenting goods (such as claiming used goods are new)
- Price gouging during a state of emergency or natural disaster (such as hand sanitizer at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic)
- Falsely claiming repairs are needed to a home or vehicle
- Deceptive online ads
Damages under FDUTPA
To prevail in a lawsuit based on unfair business practices, you must also prove that the underlying act or practice caused you or your business to suffer damages. If you are successful, you may be awarded and, or all, of the following:
- An order for actual damages suffered.
- An order requiring the business to stop the unfair practices or acts.
- A declaration from the court stating that the practice or act is a violation of the FDUTPA.
- Attorney’s fees and costs.
Consult the Tampa Bay Business Attorneys at Lieser Skaff Alexander
If you believe that you have a valid claim for unfair business practices or need to defend against such a case, consult with one of our experienced business attorneys as soon as possible. We will evaluate the acts or practices in question and advise you of your legal options.