Texas has their “act” together when it comes to misleading, deceptive or false business practices under the auspices of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Consumer Protection Act (DPTA).
While the act may have a long name and even longer reputation, it carries a clout on which Texas consumers can rely. Generally speaking, the DPTA is rather controversial and is constantly bombarded with a stream of legal interpretations and legislative changes, nonetheless it still provides Texans with the security of knowing that businesses must be accountable to them and adhere to ethical standards.
This particular act doesn’t just demand accountability for individual consumers, it holds all companies and businesses up to scrutiny and offers guidelines relating to fraud, breaches of warranty and false statements. So if someone went to a grocery store and they were misled by advertising about a product or bought an expensive painting at an art gallery, and it was a fake, consumers may be protected.
One of the reasons that the DTPA is so successful is because its provisions are applicable to most businesses or entities that engage in “any commerce or trade.” Of course this is also the reason why it gets “interpreted” rather frequently. Without getting too complex and legal, what the Act does is cover the sale, lease and distribution of just about all goods and services. It does not, however, cover professional advice. What that means is, if someone is asked for their professional opinion – say a licensed antique dealer about the authenticity of a painting – and their opinion turns out to be wrong, they can’t be held liable for being mistaken (whether someone relied on that advice or not).
Other terms in this Act make it illegal for any business or person participating in “trade or commerce” (which is fairly straightforward) to carry out “unconscionable conduct” (which isn’t that straightforward). The unconscionable conduct provision has caused a lot of grief over the years merely because of disputes over what that phrase means. One favored reading is that this is an act of behavior that takes advantage of a person in an unfair manner. Unfortunately, lawyers could and have frequently driven a truck through the holes in that definition.
Typically that particular definition has been used in court cases to refer to making false statements about how a product was made or its origin; misrepresenting the benefits of a product/service; passing off used products as being new; misleading or false advertising and fibbing about whether or not something needs parts or repairs. There are other situations where the definition of unconscionable conduct applies, and that is usually dictated by the facts of the case at hand; E.g. hiking prices on goods after a disaster.
In cases where an individual feels they have been misled or defrauded, it’s best to speak to an experienced attorney and discuss the details of the case. Knowing what one’s rights are goes a long way toward being an informed and aware consumer.