What is the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act?
Texas Auto Dealer Fraud Attorneys
The Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA) protects Texans against false, deceptive and misleading business practices. The Act, enacted in 1973, defends consumers against false or misleading business practices that would otherwise harm or defraud them. The DTPA provides consumers victimized by bad actors the legal means to get justice and compensation.
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The government and private citizens can both use the DTPA’s groundwork. The Texas Attorney General can seek court orders prohibiting businesses from further deceptive practices, while private citizens can seek redress for damages caused by specific acts listed in the DTPA. Those acts include:
- Taking advantage of a consumer’s lack of knowledge, ability, experience or capacity;
- Passing off goods or services as another’s;
- Advertising goods or services with the intent not to sell them as advertised;
- Representing goods as original or new if they are actually used or otherwise depreciated;
- Knowingly making false or misleading statements of fact concerns the need for parts, replacement or service;
and many other false, misleading, deceptive or unconscionable acts.
The DTPA is very broad, protecting consumers from “false, misleading or deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of any trade or commerce.” The Act defines trade and commerce as “the advertising, offering for sale, lease, or distribution of any good or service, or any property, tangible or intangible, real, personal, or mixed, any other article, commodity, or thing of value wherever situated, and shall include any trade or commerce directly or indirectly affecting” Texans.
The Act defines goods as “tangible things or real property purchased or leased for use,” and service as “work, labor, or services purchased or leased for use, including services furnished in connection with the sale or repair of goods.” The DTPA does not cover professional services rendered.
The Act protects consumers and businesses engaging in transactions large and small. It does not, however, protect business consumers with assets totaling more than $25 million or those owned by a corporation with assets totaling more than $25 million.
Notably, the DTPA makes many practices illegal without requiring proof that the defendant intended to do something illegal. This makes DTPA violations easier to prove than other types of fraud and encourages people and businesses to conduct business both legally and fairly.
Consumers can sue under the Act so long as the alleged violation falls under the DTPA’s list of prohibited conduct and they relied on that conduct to their detriment. They can also sue under the DTPA for breaches of expressed or implied warranty, an unconscionable action or certain violations of the Texas Insurance Code.
Consumers can recover economic damages after prevailing in a DTPA case. A jury may award up to three times the economic damages if they find the business committed the violation knowingly, in addition to mental anguish damages. The Act specifically states prevailing consumers “shall be awarded court costs and reasonable and necessary attorney fees.”
The Act requires a consumer to file their lawsuit “within two years after the date on which the false, misleading, or deceptive act or practice occurred.” If the deceptive act took place over a period of time, consumers should begin their suit from the action’s first date. Given that some deceptions by their nature can be concealed or difficult to detect, the DTPA allows consumers victimized by those acts to have two years after they “discover, or in the exercise of reasonable diligence should have discovered” the deceptive act or practice.
A special DTPA provision gives additional time to consumers who wait to file their lawsuit because the business engaged in conduct meant to delay the lawsuit, such as promising to fix the mistake. However it’s in your best interest to contact an attorney as soon as you feel wronged and the business fails to make good on their promises to solve the problem.
If you have been a victim of deceptive conduct, the attorneys of Allen Stewart, P.C. can help you recover your economic losses. Don’t wait; contact us today for a free evaluation of the merits of your deceptive practices trade claim.