Law Requires Businesses Deal With Consumers Honestly
Can a business or a company lie to you? Certainly, we expect a certain level of truth from businesses, and we know that lies in advertising can lead to lawsuits. If a lie is in a written agreement, we know that we can sue for breach of contract.
On the other hand, there is no explicit law that says that a business (or person) can’t lie. There’s a difference between doing something immoral or unethical and breaking the law. As long as there is no contract and no written law to the contrary, as a general proposition, lying is bad business, but there is no lying law.
Law Keeps Businesses Honest
Like many states, Florida has a law that does not just make it illegal for businesses to lie to you, but makes it illegal to do anything that can be construed as deceptive or unfair. The Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUTPA) is a powerful consumer weapon against companies that don’t do business the right way.
FDUTPA is a broad law that covers any kind of deceptive or unfair business practice. It is so broad that there is not even any specific definition of what is unfair or deceptive written into the statute.
Cases and courts have given some meaning to what is illegal under the act. It has been said that any behavior that is “likely to mislead” consumers is prohibited. Behavior that is “immoral, unethical, oppressive, unscrupulous or substantially injurious to consumers” will be covered under the Act.
When FDUTPA has Been Used
FDUTPA has been used in cases that allege false advertising, “bait and switch,” sales pitches that contain unsubstantiated claims, and cases where consumers were subject to high pressure and deceptive sales pitches. Schools that lie about graduation rates or post-graduate employment rates in order to entice students to enroll can be sued under the act, as can banks that mismanage accounts or charge customers for things they didn’t know about or agree to.
This very broad scope is enough to cover almost any kind of lie, or misleading tactic used by businesses, which is why it is so often used not just by consumers, but by the Attorney General’s office in prosecuting unscrupulous businesses.
The Act also allows a successful party to recover attorney’s fees. This makes it a bit easier for aggrieved consumers to find legal representation even where the damages sustained may be minimal.
Consumers are still required to act reasonably, and will be held to a standard of what a reasonable person would have understood or whether a reasonable person would have been deceived and mislead in a given situation.
Still, that is a generally easy standard to meet, making FDUTPA a powerful weapon to fight back against unfair business practices, especially where there is no other law that explicitly provides a consumer a cause of action upon which to base a claim.
Has a business lied to you or deceived you? Contact Jacobs Legal in Miami today to discuss dealing with companies that treat consumers unfairly.