By Benton M. Eskelsen
Often times customers get the raw end of a deal. They order something and it never shows up, the product wasn’t as described in the advertisement, or a premium price is paid for an inferior item. It may seem like there isn’t much you can do and that your situation is hopeless. However, the state of Utah, by law, has certain protections in place that can help you remedy these types of situations.
The Utah Consumer Sales Protection Act (UCSPA) is a law designed to protect consumers from deceptive, fraudulent, and unfair business practices. The law applies to a wide range of consumer transactions, including the sale of goods, services providers (such as contractors), and real estate. It also covers leases, warranties, and credit transactions. This law applies in almost all consumer transactions. The UCSPA applies to simple transactions, such as the sale of a kitchen appliance and even to more complicated transactions such as a home purchase. If you are a person buying an item or service for personal use, it is almost certain the UCSPA applies.
Common violations of the UCSPA
Misrepresentation: A business might misrepresent the quality, features, or benefits of a product or service in order to convince consumers to buy it. For example, a business might try to sell you a refrigerator and advertise the appliance as new, lightly used, or advertise that it has a special feature. If those statements are not true, the business has committed a deceptive act in violation of the UCSPA.
Deceptive Pricing: A business might use deceptive pricing practices, such as advertising a “sale” price that is actually the same as the regular price, or adding hidden fees and charges to the final bill. If a business does this, they again are committing a deceptive
act in violation of the UCSPA.
Failure to Ship: A business may fail to ship an item within the agreed upon time or fail to do so at all. If no particular time is agreed upon then by default the business must ship the item within 30 days. A business’s failure to adhere to these stipulations is again a violation of the UCSPA.
Consequences of violating the UCSPA
Businesses that violate the UCSPA can face severe penalties, including monetary fines, injunctions, and even criminal charges in some cases. The UCSPA also includes a right for private action and an attorney fees clause. This means that you do not need to wait for the government to take action if you believe a business has violated this law. If you believe a business you are working with is in violation of this statute, you can personally sue them. If you are successful the business won’t only owe you damages, but your attorney fees as well. This can be an especially useful course of action when larger sums of money are in play, such as home purchases, vehicle purchases or other high value items. By hiring an attorney, you can get this matter resolved either through negotiating a settlement or if necessary taking the matter to court.
However, for smaller violations of the UCSPA, the best course of action is likely to report such violations to the government. The UCSPA is enforced by the Utah Division of Consumer Protection (UDCP), which investigates consumer complaints and takes action gainst businesses that violate this law. If a consumer believes that a business has violated the UCSPA, they can file a complaint with the UDCP. The Division will investigate the complaint and take action if necessary to enforce the law.
Overall, the UCSPA is a valuable tool which can help consumers get what they are owed when a business commits deceptive acts. By understanding the UCSPA, consumers can make informed choices and hold businesses accountable for any violations of that law. The UCSPA is an important law for businesses to understand as well. As mentioned previously, violation of the UCSPA not only subjects the business to civil penalties but violations have the potential for criminal penalties as well. So, whether you are a business or a customer, understanding the UCSPA is essential.
As an attorney I am always happy to help consumers who believe they have worked with a business in violation of the UCSPA. Additionally, I am happy to help businesses navigate the UCSPA. Whatever your needs, I am happy to help, and I offer free consultations.