Deceptive Trade Practices
Consumer protection laws govern many sales and service transactions involving consumers. Such statutes prohibit and regulate deceptive or unconscionable advertising and practices, product quality, leasing and other consumer transactions. In general, businesses cannot misrepresent the quality of their goods and other terms of their sales.
The goal of consumer protection laws is to place consumers on even par with companies or others regularly engage in the sale or leasing of goods or services.
False advertising is the most common consumer complaint. A consumer generally has the right to bring an action against a false advertiser for deceptive trade practices or fraud. The consumer will need to prove that the advertiser made false representations about the product for the purpose of enticing the consumer buy or lease the product or service.
Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is a federal law that applies to professional bill collectors hired by creditors or business to attempt to recover from a debtor. The FDCPA is a consumer protection law, and it places many restrictions on the behavior and practices of bill collectors in their attempts to collect on a debt.
Bill collectors may not call you at inconvenient times, including before 8:00 in the morning or after 9:00 at night. They may also not contact you at work if you notify them that you are not allowed to receive calls there. Also, if you have told them you are represented by an attorney, then they should contact your attorney instead of you. And if you tell them to stop calling you, they must stop, except for limited purposes such as to inform of a legal collection action they will be taking.
When contacting you, bill collectors are limited in what they can say. They are not allowed to call you without identifying themselves, or to call you just harass or annoy you. They may not use profanities or obscenities, or threaten violence. They cannot lie or make false or misleading representations. This includes threatening legal action that they cannot take or do not intend to take, or telling you that you will be arrested if you do not pay.
Bill collectors have a limited right to contact your family, neighbors or co-workers to help them locate you, but they are very limited in what they can say and how much contact they can have. They also may not publish your name on a list of people who owe them money.
Debt collectors who violate the FDCPA can be sued in court, and you can recover for the actual damages you have suffered, such as medical expenses or lost wages, as well as attorney’s fees and court costs. Even without proving actual damages, you may be entitled to a statutory damages award up to $1,000.
False Claims Act
The federal and state governments contract with private companies and citizens regularly. Unfortunately, not all the transactions are honest and successful often resulting in injuries to taxpayers. Luckily both federal and state laws allow for legal claims to be made against dishonest contractors.
The federal False Claims Act (“FCA”) imposes liability on any person or business who submits a claim to the federal government that he or she knows (or should know) is false. The FCA also imposes liability on an individual who may knowingly submit a false record in order to obtain payment from the government. An example of this may include a government contractor who submits records that he knows (or should know) are false and that misrepresent compliance with certain contractual or regulatory requirements. The third area of liability includes those instances in which someone may obtain money from the federal government to which he may not be entitled, and then uses false statements or records in order to retain the money. An example of this may include a hospital who obtains interim payments from Medicare throughout the year, and then knowingly files a false cost report at the end of the year in order to avoid making a refund to the Medicare program.
The FCA provides that private parties may bring an action on behalf of the United States. These private parties, known as “qui tam relators,” may share in a percentage of the proceeds from an FCA action or settlement.