One of the most important and versatile laws protecting both consumers and honest businesses in Florida is the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, also known as FDUPTA. When the legislature created FDUPTA they wrote into the law that it was to be liberally construed to “… protect the consuming public and legitimate business enterprises from those who engage in unfair methods of competition, or unconscionable, deceptive, or unfair acts or practices in the conduct of any trade or commerce.”
For consumers FDUPTA covers a wide range of transactions such as purchasing a car, renting an apartment, or even debt collection activities. Some transactions are exempt, such as some banking transactions, because they are subject to other forms of regulation. Also, last year, the Florida Legislature, created special, and I would argue entirely unnecessary, pre-requisites that make it more difficult for consumers who wish to bring claims against retail car dealerships under FDUPTA.
The Florida Supreme Court, in a case involving a commercial tenant and corporate landlord, gave definition to unfair and deceptive business practices. In deciding the case the Court wrote that:
“An unfair practice is one that offends established public policy and one that is immoral, unethical, oppressive, unscrupulous or substantially injurious to consumers.”
It also defined a deceptive practice as one where there is a “representation, omission, or practice that is likely to mislead the consumer acting reasonably in the circumstances, to the consumer’s detriment.”
Consumers who have suffered actual harm as a result of a dishonest business practice, and prevail in a lawsuit against the business, may be able to recover their monetary damages along with an order from the Court declaring the offending business practice to be in violation of FDUPTA and enjoining the business from continuing the practice. The law also allows the consumer to recovery their reasonable attorney fees. Such lawsuits can be brought on an individual basis or as class actions lawsuits.
It is important that consumers who have been harmed by unfair and deceptive business practices consult with an attorney familiar with FDUPTA and consumer law issues. FDUPTA claims can involve very technical issues of law and many businesses will fight very aggressively to be able to continue dishonest and unfair practices that are very profitable for them.