The Massachusetts consumer protection statute (Mass. Gen. Laws, ch. 93A) provides a civil cause of action to anyone who has been injured by another’s use or employment of an unfair or deceptive method, act or practice in the conduct of trade or commerce. As the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has explained,
"The purpose of G.L. c. 93A is to improve the commercial relationship between consumers and business persons and to encourage more equitable behavior in the marketplace. Chapter 93A imposes liability on persons seeking to profit from unfair practices."
Poznik v. Mass. Med. Prof. Ins. Assn., 417 Mass. 48, 53 (1994).
The terms “unfair” and “deceptive” are not defined in ch. 93A, and the statute itself does not identify specific violative acts or practices. Because of this, many different types of wrongful business conduct potentially fall within the ambit of the consumer protection statute. The question of what is and what is not a violation of ch. 93A has been determined and refined by Massachusetts case law, ever since the statute was adopted in 1967. Additionally, other Massachusetts laws, such as the unfair insurance practices statute (ch. 176D), the home improvement contractor statute (ch. 142A), and debt collection regulations, identify specific acts which are automatic violations of ch. 93A.
A claim under ch. 93A can be asserted against a person, corporation, trust, partnership, or any other legal entity. A prevailing plaintiff is entitled recover all damages resulting from a defendant’s unfair or deceptive acts, as well as reasonable attorney’s fees and litigation costs. Where a defendant has willfully and knowingly engaged in conduct that violates ch. 93A, a court may award a plaintiff double or triple damages as well.
Businesses are also entitled to assert claims against other businesses for damages resulting from unfair or deceptive business practices. In this context, however, Massachusetts courts construe unfair or deceptive conduct much more narrowly. As the SJC famously noted over 40 years ago, “[t]he objectionable conduct must attain a level of rascality that would raise an eyebrow of someone inured to the rough and tumble of the world of commerce.” Levings v. Forbes & Wallace, Inc., 8 Mass. App. Ct. 498, 504 (1979).
Properly pursuing or defending a claim under ch. 93A requires thorough procedural knowledge and familiarity with the case law interpreting the statute. Given the prospect of recovering multiple damages, many plaintiffs are overly eager to pursue claims under the consumer protection statute. As we see it, an attorney who provides his or her clients with an overly rosy outlook of a ch. 93A claim is doing a disservice. Our attorneys utilize our knowledge and experience to provide an honest and objective assessment of the value of a ch. 93A claim at the outset. If you have been a victim of unfair or deceptive business practices, or if you’ve received a demand letter under the consumer protection statute, please contact our office for assistance.
The contents of this page are intended for general informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice. For guidance and advocacy tailored to the needs of your legal matter, please contact our office.
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