The Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUTPA), or Florida Statute § 501.201, is a Florida law that allows a person to sue a business for unfair competition and deceptive or unconscionable business practices. This law is unique in that it provides remedies for consumers that are not available under its federal equivalent, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Act, which only allows recovery of actual damages and does not allow a private lawsuit.
Who can bring a FDUTPA claim?
Any consumer who believes that he or she has fallen victim to deceptive or unfair trade practices may bring a lawsuit under FDUTPA. In order to succeed in a claim under FDUTPA, the consumer must prove that:
(1) There was a deceptive act or unfair practice,
(2) that the business was the one which caused the consumer this deceptive act or unfair practice, and
(3) that there were actual damages to the consumer.
The main question is whether the unfair or deceptive practice is likely to deceive a reasonable consumer under the same or similar circumstances. Actual damages have been defined as the difference between the market value of a product or service as represented and the market value as actually delivered.
Who is a consumer under FDUTPA?
FDUTPA broadly defines the term “consumer” to include the following: individuals; children; business; firm; association; joint venture; partnership; estate; trust; business trust; syndicate; fiduciary; corporation; any commercial entity; or any other group or combination. If you fall under one of these categories, you can bring forth a lawsuit against an unfair or deceptive practice that can relate to: advertising, soliciting, providing, offering, or distributing, whether by sale, rental, or otherwise, of any good or service, or any property, whether tangible or intangible, or any other article, commodity, or thing of value, wherever situated.
What is an unfair trade or deceptive practice?
A business engages in deceptive practices if the action is likely to mislead the consumer. Similarly, a business participates in unfair practices if it acts contrary to public policy by behaving unethically or oppressively towards consumers or other businesses. An example of unfair practices can be: (1) refusing to do deals with certain individuals or businesses, (2) selling goods or services at excessive prices, and (3) offering illegal discounts. An example of deceptive practices can be false advertising.
What remedies are available to me under FDUTPA?
If you were to prevail in a lawsuit under FDUTPA, you could be awarded (1) court costs, (2) attorney’s fees, and (3) a civil penalty of up to $10,000 for each violation. However, the $10,000 penalty may be increased to up to $15,000 for violations involving senior citizens, persons with disabilities, military service members, or the spouse or dependent child of a military service member. A consumer may also seek injunctive relief such as forcing the business to cease the unfair or deceptive act.
If you believe that you have fallen victim to an unfair or deceptive trade practice in Florida, it is recommended to contact an experienced business attorney that may help you with your claim.