M.G.L. c. 93A
In Massachusetts, consumers who find themselves victims of unfair and deceptive business practices have state remedies under M.G.L. c. 93A. The law is referred to as the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act or simply “93A,” and prohibits ”unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of any trade or commerce.” In certain situations, double or trouble damages may be awarded by a court for willful or knowing violations, as well as attorney’s fees. The Massachusetts Attorney General has promulgated regulations which supplement c. 93A.
Consumers find themselves with a wide range of ripoffs. Perhaps my favorite case involved a so-called patent company, which claimed it would design and acquire patents for inventors. Instead the company just took their money and did pretty much nothing. Although the Federal Trade Commission was prosecuting the company, inventors were receiving only small percentages of what they had paid to the company. We were able to get the inventor’s money refunded, in addition to moneys he acquired from the Federal Trade Commission. Another favorite case that I worked on was against a car dealer who was selling used cars with odometers which had been rolled back to show lower mileage.
For cases requiring criminal investigation and prosecution, rather than or in addition to pursuing a 93A civil claim, we will contact the Consumer Protection and Financial Investigation divisions of the Massachusetts Attorney General. Recently the Attorney General, assisted by the Chinese Progressive Association, successfully prosecuted the Chinatown travel agent who was pocketing cash from customers for citizen application services and airline tickets, and failed to deliver the services or tickets.
Unfair or deceptive insurance practices
In addition to 93A, if you have been in an accident caused by someone who is insured and the insurance company acts in bad faith, you may have a direct claim against the insurance company under M.G.L. c. 176D which prohibits “unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the business of insurance.” Examples of unfair or deceptive insurance practices prohibited by 176D include failing to promptly investigate, delaying payment, offering a low settlement, and failing to effectuate settlement where liability is reasonably clear.
I have experience with both statutes. Your lawyer will send a demand letter to the business or insurance company and set forth in detail the acts you are complaining about, and the amount you are seeking to settle the claim. The demand letter needs to include specific information and be sent at least 30 days before filing suit. Your lawyer will make sure that the letter complies with all statutory requirements. Sometimes the sending of a demand letter will result in a reasonable offer of settlement.
- A Basic Guide to the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Law
- Massachusetts Consumer Protection Laws
- United States Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
- Federal Trade Commission
- Sky Energy Travel, Attorney General
- Sky Energey Travel, Boston Globe