93A & Consumer Protection

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is one of the most pro-consumer places to live in the Union, thanks to G.L. c. 93A, “The Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act,” which creates a private cause of action for consumers who have been victimized by unfair or deceptive business practices.

  • The Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act  levels the playing field between ordinary consumers and businesses which engage in unfair trade practices.
  • Elements of a 93A claim: (1) a deceptive act or practice by a business; (2) an injury or loss suffered by the consumer; (3) a causal connection between the defendant’s deceptive act or practice and the consumer’s injury. See Hershenow v. Enterprise Rent–A–Car Co. of Bos., Inc., 445 Mass. 790, 797 (2006)
Suffolk County Courthouse

Suffolk County Courthouse

  •  93A gives Massachusetts consumers an incentive to vindicate their rights by granting double or treble damages and attorney’s fees where the circumstances merit– when the violations are “knowing” or “willful.”
  • The threat of multiple damages and attorneys fees often encourages parties to settle disputes short of litigation.
  • Consumers may bring a claim and seek damages under Chapter 93A where ordinary tort or contract theories of recovery might fail. All that is required is proof of harm caused by the defendant business’s unfair or deceptive act or practice.
  • Frequently, commercial wrongdoing is repetitive. Certain business, both large and small, develop a “habit” of unfairness; they grow rich by doing the same economic harm to many consumers, in the same manner. Thus, a single wronged consumer may reveal the need to join with other consumers to correct an injustice for many other aggrieved persons.
  • Chapter 93A allows for class actions.
  • To fully understand the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act, it is necessary to look back in time to the 1914 Congress. The genesis of G.L. c. 93A is the 1914 Federal Trade Commission Act, (FTCA), which outlawed “unfair or deceptive acts or practices.” 15 U.S.C. § 45(a)(1). The States followed suit, and enacted “little FTC’s” modeled after the federal legislation.  The Massachusetts version, enacted in 1967, is known as the Consumer Protection Act, or commonly “93A.” Today, Massachusetts courts still look for guidance from FTC decisions to interpreting the meaning of “unfair” and “deceptive.”
  • The federal standard of what type of conduct rises to the level of an FTCA violation is intentionally imprecise; Congress explicitly rejected enacting a statutory definition of “unfair practices.” As Congress observed: “It is impossible to frame definitions which embrace all unfair practices. There is no limit to human inventiveness in this field.” House Conference Report, H.R. Conf. Rep. No. 1142, 63d Cong., 2d Sess. 19 (1914).
  • The Massachusetts Legislature, in enacting the Consumer Protection Act, or G.L. c. 93A,  adopted flexible and adaptable standards modeled after the federal counterpart. The law was “intended the terms ‘unfair and deceptive’ to grow and change with the times.”  Nei v. Burley, 388 Mass. 307, 313 (1983). In the current economic climate with almost daily headlines about corporate malfeasance, Congress’s wisdom in 1914 when it reported that there “is no limit to human inventiveness in this field [of taking unfair advantage of consumers]” rings true today.
  • Chapter 93A claims may be also brought between business, (under § 11) when one business engages in unfair or deceptive conduct in regard to the other.
  • Businesses continue to find ways to rip off consumers- running the gamut from crafty ploys dreamed up by conmen, to sophisticated schemes hatched by MBA’s in corporate boardrooms. There is a common theme: the concerted effort to dishonestly extract maximum profit from hard-working and honest people.

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Below are some examples of types of conduct which can give rise to actions under Chapter 93A and other consumer protection laws:

  • Abuse by a creditor;
  • Attorney misconduct/overbilling;
  • Bait and switch tactics;
  • Banks engaging in “unfair and deceptive practices.”
  • Breach of contract (depends upon the circumstances)
  • Breach of express warranties;
  • Breach of fiduciary duty
  • Breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing;
  • Breach of implied warranties;
  • Broken promises by a business to a consumer;
  • Causing a consumer to make a purchase in reliance upon a deceptive statement;
  • Charity fraud;
  • Collection agency misconduct;
  • Construction/home improvement contractor misconduct;
  • Debt Collection by improper means;
  • Deception – even without intent to deceive, or awareness of deception;
  • Deception by fine print;
  • Deceptive practices;
  • Defamation;
  • Defective products;
  • Destroying a competitor’s business in an unfair, deceptive, or oppressive way;
  • Eviction motivated by revenge;
  • Excessive fees;
  • Fake “fire sales”;
  • Failure to warn of a defective or dangerous product;
  • False advertising;
  • Fees without goods or services provided;
  • Foreclosure motivated by revenge;
  • Fraud;
  • Frivolous lawsuits;
  • Harassment by a business;
  • Hiding assets to avoid a judgment;
  • Home improvement/repair scams;
  • Hospital overbilling;
  • Incorrect information on credit report;
  • Insurance company not giving adequate data to the insured about benefits;
  • Insurance company not paying claims owed;
  • Illegal practices;
  • Interfering with a sale;
  • Invasion of privacy;
  • Landlord harassment;
  • Lawful but nevertheless unfair or oppressive acts;
  • Literally true but misleading advertising;
  • Logos- misleading use of;
  • Lying by omission;
  • Lying to customers;
  • Marketing having the capacity to deceive;
  • Misrepresentation;
  • Misuse of official position for personal business advantage;
  • Negligent misrepresentation;
  • Nondisclosure;
  • Products liability;
  • Racial harassment or discrimination by a business;
  • Retaliatory eviction;
  • Selling defective or dangerous products;
  • Scams;
  • Swindles;
  • Tortious interference with advantageous relationships;
  • Unfair practices;
  • Violation of federal consumer protection laws;
  • Violation of Massachusetts building codes;
  • Waivers in contracts or leases that violate Massachusetts law, etc.

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2 responses to “93A & Consumer Protection

  1. Pingback: Potential for Massachusetts Consumer Class Action Lawsuit Against Facebook For Violating Chapter 93A Announced « Mass. Consumer Law & Consumer Protection News

  2. Sarah

    Thank you for all of the great work you did on my case!!

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