Consumer Rights and Protection

We are all consumers, and each of us should expect honesty and fair dealing from the companies we do business with. However, some companies fall short of this expectation. Fortunately, federal and state consumer protection laws provide a way for individuals to fight back against abusive business practices.

California has a variety of consumer protection laws, including the Unfair Competition Law (“UCL”) and the Consumer Legal Remedies Act (“CLRA”), among others that protect consumers from fraudulent and misleading business practices. In addition, the federal government has numerous laws that protect consumers including the Truth in Lending Act (“TILA”), the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”), the Fair Credit Billing Act (“FCBA”), the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), and the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act (“CARD Act”), to name just a few.

If you believe that you have been deceived by a business, tricked into a purchase, or lost money as a result of an abusive business practice, you can take action on behalf of yourself and other consumers.

Take Action Now.

Unfair and Deceptive Business Practices

California has a variety of laws that explicitly protect consumers. These laws protect consumers from fraudulent and deceptive business practices, unlawful business practices, and predatory and unscrupulous business dealings. These laws are designed to promote fair and honest business dealings, and ensure consumers have a remedy when businesses profit by breaking the rules.

Unfair Competition Law (“UCL”)

California’s Unfair Competition Law is a powerful pro-consumer statute, and is arguably the toughest consumer protection law in California. The law protects consumers from illegal, fraudulent, and “unfair” business practices. It allows the court to prevent the use of any unfair business practice and to restore money or property to victims of unfair competition.

Because the law prohibits “any unlawful business practice,” the UCL “borrows” violations of other laws and treats them as unlawful and independently actionable under the UCL. Even so, a business practice that is not unlawful under a specific statute may nevertheless be prohibited under the UCL if the practice is “unfair.”

We have litigated many consumer claims under the UCL, from unfair business practices on the web, to illegal acts by employers and landlords.

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Consumer Legal Remedies Act (“CLRA”)

California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act (CLRA) is a powerful pro-consumer law. The law applies to specifically-defined “unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices undertaken by any person in a transaction intended to result or which results in the sale or lease of goods or services to any consumer.”

The CLRA identifies 24 for separate acts and practices that are prohibited. These include:

  • Misrepresenting that products were made or produced by someone when they were not.
  • Misrepresenting the geographic origin of goods.
  • Representing that goods are original or new when they are not.
  • Advertising goods or services with the intent not to sell them as advertised.
  • Advertising furniture without clearly indicating that it is unassembled if that is the case.
  • Representing that a part, replacement, or repair service is needed when it is not.
  • Inserting an unconscionable provision in a contract.

If you believe that you have been deceived by a business, tricked into a purchase, or lost money as a result of an abusive business practice, you can take action on behalf of yourself and other consumers.

Take Action Now.

Telephone Fraud

“Slamming” and “cramming” are two very common forms of telephone fraud. “Slamming” is the illegal practice of changing your local or long-distance telephone service without your permission. “Cramming” is the illegal practice of adding features to your existing service and charging for them on your cell phone or landline bill without your permission. Consumers who have been “crammed” often complain about charges, (as high as $9.99 per month), for “premium” text message subscription services (also known as “PSMS” subscriptions) such as horoscopes, trivia, and sports scores, that the consumers have never heard of or requested.

Companies that charge you for services that you didn’t order make substantial profits from this practice because they know many consumers fail to review their bills carefully or do not know who to contact to question the charges.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requires telephone companies to make phone bills easy to read so that consumers can determine whether a charge is valid or not. Telephone companies must provide a toll-free number on the bill so that charges can be disputed. California has a state-specific law that requires each provider to provide a clear description of each charge, the name of the company billing the charge, the amount, information on how to dispute the charge, a toll-free number, and the number of a commission where the customer can register a complaint.

If you believe that you have been charged for a service that you did not authorize or order, you can take action on behalf of yourself and other consumers.

Take Action Now.

Robocalls and Unwanted Text Messages

If you are receiving unwanted telephone solicitations, the first step is to register your number with the Do Not Call Registry. You can register your home or mobile phone for free. It is important to note that the registry does not restrict charitable organizations, businesses you have authorized to call you, or political organizations from contacting you by telephone. However, you may still request that these exempted organizations remove you from their lists when they call you.

Even if you register on the Do Not Call Registry, it is not uncommon to receive annoying robocall advertisements. A robocall is a phone call that uses a computerized autodialer to deliver a pre-recorded message. The federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) imposes significant restrictions on “robocalls” from automated dialing systems. Although the TCPA does not prohibit robocalls entirely, it does provide important protections to consumers.

Take Action Now if you would like to put a stop to unwanted robocalls or messages.

Deceptive Marketing

Advertising is useful in communicating product and service choices to consumers. Advertising also has the potential to persuade people into buying products or services they might not otherwise wish to purchase, or to pass off a product or service as something it is not. False or deceptive advertising means using false or misleading statements in advertising, and making misrepresentation of products or services which lure consumers into transactions they would not otherwise enter.  

While advertising that is truthful and accurate is permissible, advertising that is likely to mislead the reasonable consumer is not. In California, the False Advertising Law prohibits companies from making any statement concerning the business’s products or services that is untrue or misleading, and that is known, or by the exercise of reasonable care should be known, to be untrue or misleading. This law generally applies to statements made in print, radio, and television advertisements, and on websites, signs, billboards, pamphlets, pictures or emblems, and even in direct sales pitches or verbal communications to consumers. Types of illegal advertisements include:

  • Claiming a product has health benefits when there is no evidence to support the claim.
  • Using altered photographs to demonstrate a beauty product erases wrinkles.
  • Claiming a product has superior features when the product does not.
  • Mislabeling or misidentifying the materials used to manufacture the product.
  • Failing to disclose hidden fees or surcharges.
  • Mislabeling or failing to label the ingredients in any food or dietary product.
  • Claiming a product is organic when it is not.
  • Claiming a product is available when the seller knows that it is not in stock or likely to be out of stock.
  • Engaging in bait and switch marketing; advertising goods that are an apparent bargain, with the intention of substituting inferior or more expensive goods.

If you believe that you have purchased a product or service based on false or deceptive advertising, contact Lohr Ripamonti & Segarich LLP now to Take Action Now. for yourself and other consumers.

Information Privacy

Businesses routinely collect massive amounts of information about consumers. Sometimes the consumer agrees to the collection, but in many cases, consumers are simply unaware of what information is being collected and how it is being used. Furthermore, information collected by businesses is often aggregated and sold to information brokers who use the data for profit.

Information privacy or data protection laws prohibit disclosure or misuse of information held on private individuals. While the law is continually evolving, information collected by companies is often regulated at both the federal and state level.

Federal laws that protect consumers’ information include:

  • Fair Credit Reporting Act
  • Electronic Communications Privacy Act
  • Truth In Lending Act
  • Video Privacy Protection Act
  • Cable Communications Policy Act
  • Wiretap Act
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
  • California laws that commonly affect consumers include:
  • Student Online Personal Information Protection Act
  • California Confidentiality of Medical Information Act
  • California Financial Information Privacy Act
  • California Online Privacy Protection Act
  • California Consumer Protection Against Computer Spyware Act

If you believe that information has been collected from you without your consent, or your information has been misused, you can Take Action Now. on behalf of yourself and other consumers.

 

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