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Consumer Protection Statutes 2-15-07 - MP3
Enacted as a state counterpart
to the Federal Trade Commission Act, 15 U.S.C. §45, the Massachusetts
Consumer Protection Act, G.L. c. 93A, is intended to improve the
relationship between consumers and businesses and to encourage more
equitable business practices. Toward this end, G.L. c. 93A, like
similar statutes in other states, proscribes unfair or deceptive
acts or practices in the conduct of any trade or commerce
affecting Massachusetts consumers. It also creates a private right
of action for those injured by the use of a proscribed act or practice.
The relief available under G.L. c. 93A is sui generis - neither
wholly tortious nor wholly contractual - and eliminates the elements
of many common law claims. Violations of the statute carry penalties
that are attractive to plaintiffs and have helped make G.L. c. 93A
probably the most widely used statute in Massachusetts civil litigation,
including attorney fees and trebling of damages on a potentially
class-wide basis. Conceptually, statutes like G.L. c. 93A are a
vital component of the American free enterprise system. On the whole,
they function reasonably well in accomplishing their intended purpose
in a manner that is generally fair for both consumers and businesses.
Frequently, however, those faced with litigation under statutes
like G.L. c. 93A complain that they are more a trap for the unwary
than an effective means of curbing and penalizing unscrupulous business
practices. They contend that reform is necessary because what constitutes
an unfair or deceptive act or practice is often unclear
and that the attorneys fees, treble damages and relaxed class certification
provisions are potentially crippling for an unsuspecting business.
Some also argue that too often consumers are merely pawns in the
litigation and receive little, if any, benefit from lawsuits under
this type of statute.
The Federalist Societys Boston Lawyers Chapter and its Litigation
Practice Group invite you to attend this panel as it discusses the
history and use of state consumer protection statutes based, in
part, on reference to recent trends in litigation under G.L. c.
93A. Do these statutes impose unfair burdens on businesses or vindicate
important consumer rights? What type of conduct falls within the
definition of unfair and deceptive under these statutes?
What constitutes an actionable injury under these statutes and under
what circumstances are damages awarded? Does private consumer protection
based litigation on a class-wide basis benefit individual consumers?
Would strictly public enforcement achieve better results? To what
extent are constitutionally protected rights, like freedom of speech
and due process, threatened by the way consumer protection cases
- Deirdre Cummings, Consumer Program Director, Massachusetts
Public Interest Research Group
- Brian G. Leary, Esq., McCarter & English, LLP
- John Roddy, Esq., Roddy, Klein & Ryan
- Professor Paul H. Rubin, Emory University School of Law
- Professor Dwight Golann, Suffolk University Law School,
Date: Thursday, February 15, 2007
Location: Omni Parker House Hotel