What protection do I have as a consumer?
As consumers, we rely on manufacturers, retailers, and any company engaged in commercial transactions to produce and sell the products or services that they provide safely as well as perform them as advertised.
The Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (“DTPA”) was created to protect consumers when a product causes financial/physical harm to a consumer because the service or product fails, is defective, or was not accurately represented. When this happens, the manufacturer/seller/service provider may be liable under the DTPA.
The DTPA, protects consumers against false, misleading, and deceptive business practices, unconscionable actions, and breaches of warranty. Tex. Bus. & Com. Code § 17.44–17.46.
The DTPA defines a consumer as an individual, partnership, corporation, state, or a subdivision or agency of this state who seeks or acquires by purchase or lease, any goods or services. Tex. Bus. & Com. Code § 17.45(4)
“Goods” are defined as tangible chattels or real property purchased or leased for use. Tex. Bus. & Com. Code § 17.45(1)
“Services” are defined as work, labor, or service purchased or leased for use, including services furnished in connection with the sale or repair of goods. Tex. Bus. & Com. Code § 17.45(2)
DTPA has a “laundry list” of twenty-five prohibited acts that are considered “false, misleading, or deceptive acts or practices.” Some of these prohibited acts are: Tex. Bus. & Com. Code § 17.46(a)-(d)
1) causing confusion or misunderstanding as to the source,
sponsorship, approval, or certification of goods or services;
2) representing that goods are original or new if they are deteriorated,
reconditioned, reclaimed, used, or secondhand;
3) making false or misleading statements of fact concerning the reasons
for, existence of, or amount of price reductions;
4) representing that a guarantee or warranty confers or involves rights
or remedies which it does not have or involve;
5) failing to disclose information concerning goods or services which
was known at the time of the transaction if such failure to disclose
such information was intended to induce the consumer into a
transaction into which the consumer would not have entered had the
information been disclosed.
What's the process for bringing a DTPA lawsuit?
There is a legally mandated procedure that a consumer must follow to bring a DTPA lawsuit for damages. Before bringing a lawsuit, a consumer must provide the manufacturer/seller/service provider with 60 days written notice informing them of the consumer’s complaint and damages incurred. During the 60-day period, the consumer must subject/product available for the defendant’s inspection upon written request. Tex. Bus. & Com. Code §17.505
The DTPA provides a consumer a variety of legal remedies, including, but not limited to, economic damages, mental distress/anguish damages, and attorneys’ fees. Depending on the unique facts and circumstances of your case, you may be entitled to double or triple the amount of damages. Tex. Bus. & Com. Code §17.51(b)(1)
Consumers should also be aware that if it is determined that their claim was brought in “bad faith,” they very well could be liable for the other party’s attorneys’ fees and court costs. It’s important that you have the right attorney represent you. Tex. Bus. & Com. Code §17.951-952.