Consumers have rights that companies, such as insurance companies or retailers, must keep in mind when conducting business. Businesses have been known to make express or implied promises to entice you to do business with them. When a business does not fulfill its promises, it has committed consumer fraud. Some examples of consumer fraud include:
- Insurance bad faith
- Warranty or mortgage fraud
- Misleading or false advertising
- Deceptive or fixed pricing
- Credit card fraud and unauthorized transactions (such as from internet retailers)
Both Texas and federal law seek to protect consumers from fraudulent business activity. Even if a seller does not discuss a vital fact that would have played a significant role in a purchase decision, this can be considered a fraudulent action if a consumer suffers financial harm as a result of the purchase.
Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act
The Deceptive Trade Practices Act is found in Chapter 17 of the Texas Business & Commerce Code. This Act protects consumers from the following types of practices:
- Breach of warranty
- Unconscionable act (taking advantage of a consumer's lack of knowledge, ability or experience to a grossly unfair degree)
- False, misleading, or deceptive acts (such as false advertising, misrepresenting the quality of a good for sale, resetting the odometer of a vehicle, promoting a pyramid scheme or failing to disclose pertinent information about a product prior to purchase)
Consumers raising claims under the Act may be entitled to receive damages, as well as a revocation of a business' ability to operate or attorney fees. Businesses are also typically given a period of time to rectify the deceptive practice by issuing a refund to the consumer.
Federal Legislation Protecting Consumers
Congress has also taken steps to protect consumers. For example, it passed the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) to protect individuals from abusive telemarketing practices. This Act greatly limits the time and manner in which companies can make calls to consumers. This legislation also allowed for the creation of the Do Not Call list, orchestrated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which allows consumers to avoid all telemarketing calls from companies with which they do not already have a relationship. Companies who violate the TCPA are liable to consumers for each individual offense.
Insurance Bad Faith
Insurance bad faith claims arise when an insurance company has failed to honor its obligations, either to the policyholder (this is referred to as a first party claim) or when processing a claim or coverage dispute made against someone else's insurance policy (this is referred to as a third party claim).
The Texas Insurance Code prohibits unfair activity by insurance companies. Section 542.060 of the Texas Insurance Code provides that if an insurer delays payment in violation of the law, the insurer must pay 18 percent interest on the claim plus attorney's fees.
If you believe you have been the victim of consumer fraud or abuse, it is important to retain an experienced consumer protection lawyer. The attorneys of Wigington & Dankesreiter, L.L.P. have successfully represented individuals in many types of consumer cases. Contact us today to discuss your case.