Pennsylvania’s Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law (“UTPCPL”)
Pennsylvania’s Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law (“UTPCPL”)

Pennsylvania’s Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law, 73 P.S. § 201-1 et seq., often referred to as the UTPCPL, was passed in order to put businesses and consumers on the same level during transactions.

Purpose of PA’s Consumer Protection Law

Often, large businesses will engage in unfair, fraudulent, or deceptive activity that takes advantage of individual consumers. These businesses have much more power than a consumer, have lawyers on retainer, and have enough resources to have an expensive court battle. Individual consumers often do not have such resources.

This is especially true when the item that a dispute is about is not of significant value, such as a washing machine or used vehicle. When the item purchased isn’t of significant value, it often would not make sense for the individual consumer to spend thousands in legal fees to correct deceptive or fraudulent conduct by a business. This is where the UTPCPL comes into play.

Pennsylvania’s Consumer Protection Law Covers Most Consumer Transactions

The UTPCPL prohibits unfair methods of competition between businesses and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of any trade or commerce. Trade and commerce are further defined by the UTPCPL as “the advertising, offering for sale, sale or distribution of any services and any property, tangible or intangible, real, personal or mixed, and any other article, commodity, or thing of value wherever situate, and includes any trade or commerce directly or indirectly affecting the people of this Commonwealth.” 73 P.S. § 201-2.

Therefore, the UTPCPL applies to most transactions between a business and a consumer in Pennsylvania. This includes sales of motor vehicles, sales of appliances, repairs made by a mechanic and most other types of transactions.

The UTPCPL was designed to be broad and cover a wide range of activity.

All Consumer Fraud is Prohibited in Pennsylvania

Many types of conduct can be considered unfair, fraudulent, or deceptive under the UTPCPL. This includes if a merchant or business makes a false statement or misrepresentation about the object being sold, the business makes representations about its services that turn out not to be true, and/or a business advertises goods or services with the intention not to sell the goods or services as advertised. 73 P.S. § 201-2.

There is also the catchall provision in the UTPCPL that prohibits a business from “[e]ngaging in any other fraudulent or deceptive conduct which creates a likelihood of confusion or of misunderstanding.” This is a very broad provision and provides an avenue for relief if certain conduct by a business is not specifically covered by the enumerated provisions of the UTPCPL.

Businesses that Violate PA Consumer Protection Laws Must Pay Lawyer Fees

What makes the UTPCPL a valuable and useful tool for consumers is the fee shifting provision for private lawsuits. 73 P.S. § 201-9.2. As was stated above, sometimes it would not make financial sense to pay a lawyer $10,000.00 to pursue a lawsuit over goods or services worth $1,000.00.

To remedy this problem, the UTPCPL provides that if a consumer prevails in his/her UTPCPL lawsuit, the defendant (i.e. the merchant or business) must pay the attorney’s fees of the consumer. This makes lawsuits viable when a business engages in unfair, deceptive, or fraudulent conduct over an item that does not have significant monetary value.

This provision also helps level the playing field between the consumer and business by providing an incentive for consumers to litigate UTPCPL cases and hold business responsible for unfair, deceptive, or fraudulent conduct.

Actual & Statutory Damages Available in PA Consumer Protection Lawsuits

The UTPCPL also provides for damages to the consumer in the amount of any actual damages suffered or one hundred dollars ($100.00), whichever is greater. In addition, the UTPCPL provides the court hearing the lawsuit with the power to multiply the consumer’s actual damages by up to three times. 73 P.S. § 201-9.2.

That means if your damages are $1,000.00, you could recover up to $3,000.00 ($1,000.00 multiplied by 3), any attorney’s fees incurred, and the costs of the lawsuit (i.e. filing fees, deposition fees).

Free Consultation & Case Review for Consumer Protection Cases

The UTPCPL is a complex consumer protection statute and there are many ins and outs created by a large amount of case law. It is always best to consult with an attorney about potential UTPCPL violations especially considering that the defendant may have to pay any attorney’s fees and costs if the consumer prevails.

Lampman Law offers free consultations regarding the UTPCPL. If you think you have been taken advantage of or harmed by a business’s unfair, deceptive, or fraudulent practices, call us today at 570-371-3737 for a free consultation and case review.

2 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre, PA 18701

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Lampman Law practices criminal defense and civil rights in the Counties of: Bradford, Carbon, Clinton, Columbia, Lackawanna, Lehigh, Luzerne, Lycoming, Mifflin, Monroe, Montour, Northampton, Northumberland, Pike, Schuylkill, Snyder, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Union, Wayne, Wyoming. Lampman Law Office is located in Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania.

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