Consumer protection laws exist, according to the Code of the District of Columbia, to:
- Provide a remedy for victims of improper trade practices;
- Deter the continuing of such practices;
- Promote fair practices throughout the community; and
- Educate consumers so they can confidently demand high standards and seek remedies for complaints.
D.C. Code § 28-3901(b)
Consumer protection laws and consumer rights help protect and prevent unlawful trade practices. A “trade practice” is, generally, any act used for the purpose of selling, leasing, or transferring consumer goods or services. As a consumer, a person who receives the goods or services through purchase or lease, the consumer protection laws help you overcome falling victim to unlawful trade practices, also known as consumer fraud or consumer abuse.Consumer Fraud and the Consumer Protection Act
While the DC Consumer Protection Procedures Act (CPPA) provides a long list of unlawful trade practices, we will address a few common violations, most of which involve consumer fraud and misrepresentation. If you have been the victim of consumer fraud and the violation is not listed below, you can view the full list of unlawful trade practices in the DC Code by searching D.C. Code § 28-3904.
Some common Consumer Protection Act violations include:
- Representing goods as new when they are second hand or reclaimed;
- Representing goods or services are of a particular standard or quality when they do not meet that standard or quality;
- Using misleading tactics in selling or advertising (including pricing);
- Threatening consumers with legal action (for example, by telephone or social media);
- Fraudulent work on electrical or mechanical equipment; or
- Offering or selling consumer products that do not meet consumer product safety standards
Consumers are savvy and know common phrases associated with the Consumer Protection Act. However, because the associated terms have become commonplace, consumers may not realize the terms are linked to legal actions against consumer fraud and for the protection of consumers. Consumer Protection Act cases include abusive debt collection practices, predatory lending, abusive payday lending, and foreclosure prevention scams, to name a few. Speaking with a qualified consumer protection attorney will help you determine if you have a case.Consumer Protection Act Lawsuits
Lawsuits under the CPPA can only be brought by or for consumers. The consumer sues a merchant for violations of the Consumer Protection Act. A merchant includes the person or organization that sells the goods or services or supplies the goods or services. Under the CPPA, businesses cannot sue merchants.
Individual consumers may file a class action lawsuit against a merchant. A class action lawsuit benefits consumers by tipping the economic scale in favor of the consumer. When consumers join forces with similar victims in a consumer protection lawsuit, they pose a serious threat to businesses, even large corporations, who use deceptive and unfair business practices. Of course, a class action lawsuit is not always in the best interest of the individual. If you are the victim of consumer fraud, a consumer protection attorney will help you decide what is in your best interest.Remedies
In a successful Consumer Protection Act lawsuit, a consumer may be awarded the following remedies in accordance with the CPPA:
- Punitive damages
- Treble damages (triple the amount of actual damages) or $1,500 per violation, whichever is greater
- Injunction against the use of unlawful trade practice
- Attorney’s fees
- Any other relief the court determines proper
While there is a great deal more about consumer protection laws and how to hold businesses accountable to higher standards of practices, we have highlighted some of the more common issues here. We urge consumers who have fallen victim to consumer fraud and unfair business practices to speak with consumer protection attorney Johnnie Bond of Washington, D.C. for more information. To request a review of your case, call our office at (202) 683-6803. You also can use the online form located on this website to reach us.