The PA Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law ("UTPCPL")

undefinedBy Keith E. Kendall, Esq.

If you've ever bought a car because a dealer told you "like new;" then take the car for repairs at some later time, only to find out that the car had been wrecked and welded back together, etc., you may have a claim under the Pa UTPCPL. If you've ever had an addition built onto your home, and the contractor attempts to increase the quoted cost of the project without prior notice, you may have a claim under the UTPCPL. The UTPCPL generally protects consumers from unfair and/or untrue misrepresentations about products and/or services. The Law protects a wide range of consumer transactions (approximately 20, with subsets), with some exceptions. The protections are as follows:

"Unfair methods of competition" and "unfair or deceptive acts or practices" mean any one or more of the following:

(i) Passing off goods or services as those of another;

(ii) Causing likelihood of confusion or of misunderstanding as to the source, sponsorship, approval or certification of goods or services;

(iii) Causing likelihood of confusion or of misunderstanding as to affiliation, connection or association with, or certification by, another;

(iv) Using deceptive representations or designations of geographic origin in connection with goods or services;

(v) Representing that goods or services have sponsorship, approval, characteristics, ingredients, uses, benefits or quantities that they do not have or that a person has a sponsorship, approval, status, affiliation or connection that he does not have;

(vi) Representing that goods are original or new if they are deteriorated, altered, reconditioned, reclaimed, used or secondhand;

(vii) Representing that goods or services are of a particular standard, quality or grade, or that goods are of a particular style or model, if they are of another;

(viii) Disparaging the goods, services or business of another by false or misleading representation of fact;

(ix) Advertising goods or services with intent not to sell them as advertised;

(x) Advertising goods or services with intent not to supply reasonably expectable public demand, unless the advertisement discloses a limitation of quantity;

(xi) Making false or misleading statements of fact concerning the reasons for, existence of, or amounts of price reductions;

(xii) Promising or offering prior to time of sale to pay, credit or allow to any buyer, any compensation or reward for the procurement of a contract for purchase of goods or services with another or others, or for the referral of the name or names of another or others for the purpose of attempting to procure or procuring such a contract of purchase with such other person or persons when such payment, credit, compensation or reward is contingent upon the occurrence of an event subsequent to the time of the signing of a contract to purchase;

(xiii) Promoting or engaging in any plan by which goods or services are sold to a person for a consideration and upon the further consideration that the purchaser secure or attempt to secure one or more persons likewise to join the said plan; each purchaser to be given the right to secure money, goods or services depending upon the number of persons joining the plan. In addition, promoting or engaging in any plan, commonly known as or similar to the so-called "Chain-Letter Plan" or "Pyramid Club." The terms "Chain-Letter Plan" or "Pyramid Club" mean any scheme for the disposal or distribution of property, services or anything of value whereby a participant pays valuable consideration, in whole or in part, for an opportunity to receive compensation for introducing or attempting to introduce one or more additional persons to participate in the scheme or for the opportunity to receive compensation when a person introduced by the participant introduces a new participant. As used in this subclause the term "consideration" means an investment of cash or the purchase of goods, other property, training or services, but does not include payments made for sales demonstration equipment and materials for use in making sales and not for resale furnished at no profit to any person in the program or to the company or corporation, nor does the term apply to a minimal initial payment of twenty-five dollars ($25) or less;

(xiv) Failing to comply with the terms of any written guarantee or warranty given to the buyer at, prior to or after a contract for the purchase of goods or services is made;

(xv) Knowingly misrepresenting that services, replacements or repairs are needed if they are not needed;

(xvi) Making repairs, improvements or replacements on tangible, real or personal property, of a nature or quality inferior to or below the standard of that agreed to in writing;

(xvii) Making solicitations for sales of goods or services over the telephone without first clearly, affirmatively and expressly stating:

(A) the identity of the seller;

(B) that the purpose of the call is to sell goods or services;

(C) the nature of the goods or services; and

(D) that no purchase or payment is necessary to be able to win a prize or participate in a prize promotion if a prize promotion is offered. This disclosure must be made before or in conjunction with the description of the prize to the person called. If requested by that person, the telemarketer must disclose the no-purchase/no-payment entry method for the prize promotion;

(xviii) Using a contract, form or any other document related to a consumer transaction which contains a confessed judgment clause that waives the consumer's right to assert a legal defense to an action;

(xix) Soliciting any order for the sale of goods to be ordered by the buyer through the mails or by telephone unless, at the time of the solicitation, the seller has a reasonable basis to expect that it will be able to ship any ordered merchandise to the buyer:

(A) within that time clearly and conspicuously stated in any such solicitation; or

(B) if no time is clearly and conspicuously stated, within thirty days after receipt of a properly completed order from the buyer, provided, however, where, at the time the merchandise is ordered, the buyer applies to the seller for credit to pay for the merchandise in whole or in part, the seller shall have fifty days, rather than thirty days, to perform the actions required by this subclause;

(xx) Failing to inform the purchaser of a new motor vehicle offered for sale at retail by a motor vehicle dealer of the following:

(A) that any rustproofing of the new motor vehicle offered by the motor vehicle dealer is optional;

(B) that the new motor vehicle has been rustproofed by the manufacturer and the nature and extent, if any, of the manufacturer's warranty which is applicable to that rustproofing;

The requirements of this subclause shall not be applicable and a motor vehicle dealer shall have no duty to inform if the motor vehicle dealer rustproofed a new motor vehicle before offering it for sale to that purchaser, provided that the dealer shall inform the purchaser whenever dealer rustproofing has an effect on any manufacturer's warranty applicable to the vehicle. This subclause shall not apply to any new motor vehicle which has been rustproofed by a motor vehicle dealer prior to the effective date of this subclause.

(xxi) Engaging in any other fraudulent or deceptive conduct which creates a likelihood of confusion or of misunderstanding.

73 P.S.§201-2(4) Definitions

As with most laws, the UTPCPL can itself be confusing. Whether or not your particular consumer transaction qualifies for protection will almost certainly require the review and opinion of an attorney with familiarity and experience with this potentially powerful consumer tool.

If you believe you have been the victim of any of these unfair practices contact Scaringi Law to see if your claim is worth pursuing at 717 657 7770.

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