Claims Filed Under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act
This spring, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) filed a legal complaint with the state of Texas against the beef industry, alleging a violation of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA) in conjunction with health claims concerning beef products. Specifically, the organization alleged that brochures published by the industry advertising that beef can be a part of a health diet which helps to manage cholesterol promotes deceptive, false, and misleading business practices, promoting beef products as having benefits that they do not have.
The complaint highlights how the DTPA can be used against businesses to accomplish a particular agenda, all under the guise of “consumer protection.” Below, we discuss more about defending against alleged violations of the DTPA.
History of the DTPA
The DTPA is arguably is one of the foremost consumer protection laws in the country. Due to its attractive remedial provisions, broad applicability to both individuals and businesses, and no-fault liability, it arguably encourages consumer protection attorneys to file complaints under it. However, the law was amended in 1995, its scope and the amount of damages that could be recovered both limited, in order to make it easier for defendants to fight back against frivolous claims. It and subsequent legislation also set the stage for defendants to recover attorneys’ fees in defending a DTPA claim, and placed overall limits on recovery against certain defendants.
Who Can File A Complaint?
Under the law, any plaintiff seeking to bring an action under DTPA must qualify as a “consumer,” or one who seeks or acquires, by purchase or lease, goods or services. This section has been one of the most litigated sections of the act. While there is no requirement that there be a contract, payment, or contractual relationship, one must have either bought something or be in the process of buying something; in other words, what matters is whether the consumer has a good faith intention and ability to purchase.
In addition, the courts have held that a good may be acquired by someone who is not the owner of the product if they obtained a benefit from the product, and if they are an “intended” versus “incidental” beneficiary. Perhaps most importantly, a consumer cannot be someone who just occasionally uses a good if they did not purchase the good. In addition, the goods must be purchased and not received gratuitously. The following are examples of individuals other than the one who made the purchase who count as “consumers” in terms of filing under the DTPA:
- A tenant (with respect to goods purchased by a landlord);
- A child (with respect to goods purchased by their parents); and
- A spouse (with respect to goods purchased by their spouse).
Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act Defense Attorneys
Our Brownsville, Texas attorneys at Colvin, Saenz, Rodriguez & Kennamer, L.L.P. defend clients against alleged violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act and similar laws. To schedule a consultation, contact us today.