Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices
"A POWERFUL CAUSE OF ACTION, IF PROVEN."
In Massachusetts unfair and deceptive trade practices claims, commonly known as “93A claims,” referring to the statute they are derived from, are broken down into two categories: consumer against business claims (so-called “section 9 claims”); and business against business claims (so-called “section 11 claims”). The key difference procedural between the two is that before a party may file a demand for relief with respect to section 9 claims, the potential defendant must be informed by means of a written demand for relief (a so-called “30-day demand letter”) identifying the claimant and reasonably describing the unfair and deceptive act or practice relied upon and the injuries suffered. The purpose of the demand letter is to facilitate the settlement and damage assessment aspects of c. 93A and as such the letter and notice therein is a procedural requirement the absence of which is a bar to suit. To establish liability in a Chapter 93A action, the plaintiff must not only prove an unfair and deceptive act or practice but must also prove that the unfair act or practice caused a loss. To establish a violation of G. L. c. 93A under either section, a plaintiff must show "(1) that the defendant engaged in an unfair method of competition or committed an unfair or deceptive act or practice; (2) a loss of money or property suffered as a result; and (3) a causal connection between the loss suffered and the defendant’s unfair or deceptive method, act, or practice. Businesses seeking relief under section 11 claims are held to a stricter standard than consumers in terms of what constitutes unfair or deceptive conduct, particularly where both sides are highly sophisticated. Undoubtedly, the most powerful aspect of 93A claims is that if the unfair or deceptive act alleged is found to have been wilfully or knowingly committed, the court must award less than double and no more than triple damages. Moreover, even if the conduct falls short of being wilful or knowing, an unfair or deceptive act that violates the statute nonetheless requires the payment of reasonable attorney's fees and costs.
In Rhode Island, any person who purchases or leases goods or services primarily for personal, family, or household purposes and suffers any ascertainable loss of money or property, as a result of the use or employment by another person of a method, act, or practice which is unfair or deceptive in the conduct of any trade or commerce may bring an action under the rules of civil procedure in the superior court. The court may, in its discretion, award punitive damages, attorney's fees and costs, and may provide other equitable relief that it deems necessary or proper. Under Rhode Island law, while the statute provides a private right of action, where the complained of activity is subject to regulation by a government agency, private causes of action are precluded. Rhode Island differs fundamentally from Massachusetts insofar as it does not distinguish between consumer claims and commercial claims, it does not require a demand letter as a prerequisite to filing suit on a consumer claim, and it does not mandate a minimum award of double damages and attorney’s fees and costs upon a finding of a violation of the statute.
D. Baker Law Group, P.C. has substantial experience both prosecuting and defending unfair and deceptive trade practice claims with an intimate knowledge of the law governing these actions.