Among the areas where businesses are increasingly vulnerable to litigation is in the area of consumer protection statutes. One such statute is the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act, more commonly known as the Deceptive Trade Practices Act (“DTPA”).
Deceptive Trade and Practices Act
The Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA) was originally enacted to: 1) provide consumers with a cause of action for deceptive trade practices without the burden of proof and numerous defenses encountered in common-law fraud or breach of warranty suits; 2) encourage consumers to litigate claims that would not otherwise be economically feasible by permitting a successful plaintiff to recover attorney’s fees; and 3) to deter false, misleading, and deceptive business practices, unconscionable actions, and breaches of warranty in trade or commerce.
The Deceptive Trade Practices Act applies to trade and commerce which is defined in the Act as advertising, offering for sale, sale, lease, or distribution of any good or service, of any property, tangible or intangible, real, personal, or mixed, and any other article, commodity, or thing of value, wherever situated, and shall include any trade or commerce directly or indirectly affecting the people of Texas. This expansive definition promotes wide applicability of the Deceptive Trade Practices Act against businesses. Unfortunately, this consumer-oriented law can be used as a powerful weapon by consumers against honest businesses. In order to avoid DTPA liability, it is essential to have a basic understanding of the Deceptive Trade Practices Act, the conduct that can lead to liability, and steps that can be taken to minimize the risk of being sued.