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Many consumers are unaware of the rights they are entitled to under the Massachusetts Consumer Protection law, Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 93A. Likewise, many merchants may not fully understand their responsibilities under this law.  This National Consumer Protection Week, the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation wants to educate and encourage consumers to take full advantage of their consumer rights and make better-informed decisions.

The law does not define any specific business actions that violate the law; rather it states that “unfair or deceptive practices” are illegal. Although each case is judged on its own merits, some examples of unfair or deceptive practices that might fall under Chapter 93A would be when:

  • A business charges a consumer higher rates than the marked, published or advertised price.
  • The refund/return policy is not clearly posted where it can be readily noticed and understood.
  • A business fails to tell you relevant information regarding your product or service or misleads you in any way.

If a consumer believes a business has violated the Consumer Protection Law and engaged in some sort of unfair or deceptive practice and after attempting to resolve the complaint with the merchant informally, he/she may decide to take legal action.  As a general matter, a consumer suing under law must demonstrate the following to prove the claim:

  • That the consumer sent a detailed 30-day demand letter that outlines the complaint, the harm suffered, and the demanded relief.
  • That he or she is a “consumer” plaintiff – someone engaging in commerce primarily for personal, family or household purposes;
  • That the defendant’s actions were “unfair” or “deceptive;” and
  • That these actions resulted in a “loss of money or property, real or personal” to that consumer.

A court can award a consumer plaintiff who proves the above compensatory or actual damages, sometimes as much as double or treble damages if the plaintiff can prove (1) the defendant willfully and knowingly violated Chapter 93A or (2) the defendant refused to grant relief in bad faith with knowledge or reason to know that his acts violated Chapter 93A.

If you have additional questions, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs by calling our Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in MA at (888) 283-3757, Monday through Friday, from 9 am-4:30 pm. Follow the Office on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer. The Baker-Polito Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation is committed to protecting consumers through consumer advocacy and education.

 

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