- The attorney general's office provides Texans many options to resolve consumer complaints.texas proud image by buckwheat from Fotolia.com
Created in 1914, the Federal Trade Commission battled to thwart unfair methods of competition in commerce. In 1938 the U.S. Congress passed a consumer protection act to address "unfair and deceptive acts or practices." Since then many states have also passed legislation in an attempt to protect consumers from unlawful business practices. Although several amendments clarifying state legislative intent have been added since, in 1967 Texas promulgated its own legislation, referred to as the Deceptive Trade Practices-Consumer Protection Act.
Deceptive Trade Practices-Consumer Protection Act
- The Texas Business and Commerce Code has a section that regulates all areas of consumer protection in the state, excluding insurance. The code states the goal of the act as "to protect consumers against false, misleading and deceptive business practices, unconscionable actions and breaches of warranty, and to provide efficient and economical procedures to secure such protection."
Consumer Protection Division
- Created by the Deceptive Trade Practices-Consumer Protection Act (DTPA), the Consumer Protection Division (CPD) falls under the domain of the Texas Attorney General's office. The CPD's mission to protect consumers as well as legitimate business entities makes it an integral part of Texas consumer protection. The division files lawsuits under the DTPA and mainly engages in false and deceptive advertising, defective merchandise and home or appliance repair scams litigation. Per authorization of Texas code, upon request the CPD performs investigations and assists in class action lawsuits. The act requires the attorney general's office to provide a full report, including details of the disposition of the case, to the division if it did not participate in the actual court proceedings. The division cannot represent individual consumers; lawsuits are filed on behalf of the state of Texas.
Deceptive Trade Practices
- The DTPA lists in great detail what it means by "false, misleading, or deceptive acts or practices." Examples of these acts include, but are in no way limited to, pyramid schemes, misrepresentation of goods, false advertising, knowingly advertising and selling prescription drug cards not compliant with state rules, taking advantage of a disaster by inflating prices of necessities and knowingly and falsely using the term "corporation," or "incorporated," in the name of a business entity.
Remedies and Penalties
- The DTPA provides many remedies for consumers. Although the state files the actions, some cases do yield restitution for individual consumers by the court. The attorney general's office also makes available a mediation program for consumers. The CPD may request temporary restraining orders, permanent injunction, or if approved by a court, a civil penalty payable to the state. However, per the code, economic damage refers only to pecuniary loss and does not include exemplary damages or compensation for physical and mental anguish, physical impairment and the like, unless ordered by the court. The defendant may make an offer of settlement within 60 days of the receipt of written notice of intent to file. The court might also accept an assurance of "voluntary compliance" primarily based on the stipulation that the person in violation will restore money or property acquired by deceptive means.
Statute of Limitation
- All actions brought under the DTPA must be initiated within two years after the alleged deceptive act occurred, or within two years of reasonable discovery. However, if the consumer can prove that the defendant purposely engaged in conduct to convince the plaintiff to refrain from or put off the commencement of the action, an extension can be granted.