Massey Law Firm PLLC

Understanding the DTPA and avoiding deceptive trade practices

Enacted on May 21, 1973, the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices-Consumer Protection Act (DTPA) focuses on protecting consumers from deceptive business actions. Prohibited practices include false and misleading practices along with unconscionable actions and breaches of warranty.

What types of transactions are covered?

The sale, advertisement and distribution of goods and services are protected. This includes tangible items sold in addition to the sale of labor or services. However, professional services that provide advice, judgment or opinion are excluded.

The DTPA’s broad language regarding transactions, “false, misleading, or deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of any trade or commerce are hereby declared unlawful,” means most consumer transactions are protected. From protecting small purchases by consumers to businesses making large scale transactions, the Act covers nearly anything and everything in between.

DTPA’s Laundry List of prohibited acts

Section 17.46 of the DTPA lists 27 prohibited acts for which consumers can sue for damages. Items in the list of prohibited acts deal mainly with false representation of goods or services. For instance, it is illegal to pass off goods and services produced by a company under the name of another company. Also, businesses are not allowed to pass off used or reconditioned items as new products. Additionally, a business may not use false information to discredit the goods or services of a competitor.

Possible DTPA remedies for consumers

Most DTPA lawsuits must be filed within two years from when the alleged violation occurred. For businesses facing a DTPA lawsuit, be advised that both public and private remedies are available to consumers. Public remedies include monetary penalties of up to $20,000 for the business as well as temporary or permanent injunctions. Public remedies are enforced by the Texas Attorney General’s Office Consumer Protection Division. Private remedies include monetary awards of up to three times the amount of economic damages, with additional damages awarded in cases of intentional violations. Also, the consumer’s legal fees might be eligible for reimbursement.

In general, deceptive trade practices are acts of questionable moral turpitude and business owners should keep in mind the DPTA makes many practices illegal without requiring proof. If it begs the question of whether or not it is a violation of the DTPA, than it is likely best to avoid it. The short term gain made by questionable practices can have far-reaching, long-term consequences for your business.

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Massey Law Firm PLLC
601 Sawyer St.
Suite 225
Houston, TX 77007

Phone: 346-800-6101
Fax: 713-588-8437
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