new york | new jersey deceptive business practices lawyers
Most business owners have good intentions. They are truly passionate about creating a product or providing a service that satisfies consumers’ needs better than any alternative. However, even good business owners do not always hire the right people and do not have full control over how professionals they hire use their authority. As a result, these professionals may use deceptive business practices to earn your business. Sales representatives are especially notable for this, but sometimes the entire company is on board with its deceptive practices. When this happens, you need an experienced lawyer at the Schmierer Law Group to help you assert your rights.
Unfair business practices that can prompt the need for legal counsel include misrepresentation or fraud by a business against their consumers. Many federal and state laws exist to either discourage, prohibit, or punish these types of business practices. In spite of this, unfair business practices often come from large corporations or insurance companies. If you feel you were a victim of deceptive or unfair business practices, learn more about how you can ensure your legal rights are protected.
Understanding Deceptive Business Practices
A deceptive business practice is any activity that is used by a business or individual in an attempt to mislead or lure a consumer into purchasing a good or service that relies on some form of fraud or misleading information. In some cases, simply puffery and slight exaggeration do not rise to the level of a deceptive business practice (i.e. New York’s Best Cup of Coffee, etc.)
However, when a marketing or advertising claim straight-out lies or makes deceptive or false claims regarding a product, this type of deceptive business practice is illegal (e.g. odometer fraud in a vehicle or false claims regarding results from a product).
Examples of Deceptive Business Practices
Deceptive business practices can involve several different types of marketing or advertising, or simply failing to provide the good or service promised. Examples include the following:
- Breach of an existing contract
- Inducing a breach of contract
- Copyright infringement, trademark infringement, or intellectual property theft
- Predatory pricing or pricing discrimination
- Malicious prosecution
- Libel and slander
- False representation of a good or service as new or original, when it is instead altered, used, reclaimed, reconditioned, or deteriorated
- False representation of the benefits, quantities, characteristics, accessories, certification, approval, sponsorship, or source of a good or service.
- Falsely stating that a repair, replacement, or service is needed when it is not needed
- Advertising goods or services without enough stock to meet demand
- Advertising goods or services without the intent of selling them exactly as advertised (false advertising)
- Odometer fraud (resettling or turning back the odometer of a vehicle prior to purchase by a consumer)
- Fraudulently representing a good or service as that of another (counterfeit goods and services)
- Fraudulently claiming that a good or service has a sponsorship, approval, or certification it does not have (false advertising)
Unfair Versus Deceptive Business Practices
Most people consider unfair and deceptive business practices to be the same thing. However, unfair business practices are actually more severe than deceptive business practices.
Deceptive business practices generally involve misleading a customer into believing something that isn’t true through misrepresentation or omission. In contrast, unfair practices are likely to cause or do cause substantial damages to consumers in the form of financial loss or physical injury. For a practice to qualify as unfair, the benefits from the competition or consumers cannot outweigh the downsides. Finally, consumers must not have a reasonable way to avoid the practice.
The Schmierer Law Group can help you determine which category your specific case falls under. Our attorneys can then walk you through the steps of filing a suit and seeking damages. Note that, unfortunately, consumer laws regarding deceptive and unfair business practices do not usually include provisions for emotional harm.
You have the right as a consumer and as a victim of deceptive business practices to file a claim to receive your money back and in some cases also receive damages and compensation for your losses. As a consumer you have the right to attempt to receive the following after discovering that you were a victim of a deceptive or unfair business practice:
- The money you paid for a good or service that was deceptively or fraudulently marketed
- Losses you suffered as a result of the unfair, deceptive, misleading, or fraudulent marketing or advertisement
- Other costs or losses associated or incurred as a result of the deceptive or fraudulent marketing or business practice
- In some cases, lawyer fees and/or court costs
Frequently Asked Questions
At the Schmierer Law Group we see that most consumers tend to share many of the same questions when it comes to deceptive business practices. Every case is different, so it is impossible to provide legal advice that directly applies to your situation without knowing more about the particulars. Even so, here are general answers to some questions you may have.
1. Who handles national consumer complaints?
The Federal Trade Commission is America’s consumer protection agency. It handles complaints against businesses all across the country. The FTC also plays a proactive role in trying to prevent fraudulent business practices and protect consumers. One of its most important goals is to maintain a free and competitive market.
2. Who can file a suit?
At the state level in New Jersey, the attorney general can prosecute offenders. At both the state and national level, consumers can bring a suit against offenders. Most do so with the help of an experienced attorney.
3. Does New Jersey have state-level protections?
New Jersey did not adopt the Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act. Instead, it outlaws specific acts of deception. For example, the state prohibits false advertising. It also makes it illegal to tamper with the odometer on vehicles.
4. What kind of damages can I receive?
For the first offense, the entity responsible for deceptive business practices may pay up to $10,000 for the first offense and then up to $20,000 the second time around. The attorney general may also be able to recover legal fees. Note that when senior citizens are the victims of deceptive business practices, they can receive two times the usual amounts.
Contact an Experienced Attorney
You have legal rights as a consumer against deceptive business practices in both federal and state law. If you feel that your rights were violated in any way due to deceptive business practices, contact one of the experienced lawyers at the Schmierer Law Group today to ensure your legal rights remain protected.