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Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA)

Wilhite & Associates, P.C. Attorneys at Law frequently represents consumers and businesses alike throughout Harris County including Houston, Northwest Houston, Champions, Spring, Tomball, Klein, the FM 1960 area, as well as The Woodlands and Conroe in Montgomery County, concerning unjust and unfair deceptive trade practices and other actions brought under the Texas DTPA .

History

Before 1973, the rule in Texas was that of “caveat emptor” – Let the Buyer Beware. This meant that it was the consumer’s duty to inspect the product before making a purchase. Merchants were free to use whatever means necessary to convince consumers to purchase their goods or services. In response, the Texas Legislature enacted the Deceptive Trade Practices – Consumer Protection Act (DTPA).

The DTPA became one of the broadest consumer protection laws in the country. However, in 1995, in keeping with the “tort reform” culture in Texas, the Legislature limited the amount of damages, precluded the application of the DTPA from tort suits, and gave defendants a greater opportunity to settle and recover attorney’s fees from frivolous lawsuits.

While the DTPA is not as favorable to consumers as it once was, it continues to provide a more efficient and economical means for consumers to enforce their rights.

Applicability

The DTPA applies only to “consumers” – those who seek or acquire goods or services by purchase or lease. Certain types of claims, such as those for personal injury and professional services, are specifically exempted under the Act.

It should be noted that small businesses may also qualify as consumers.


DTPA Claims

    The DTPA applies to the following unlawful acts:

    Laundry List Violations – False, misleading, or deceptive acts that are specifically enumerated in the statute and relied upon by the consumer to the consumer’s detriment. The statute lists specific acts or practices sometimes used by merchants that are automatically deemed deceptive. Some of the most common violations are as follows:

    • Representations that goods possess characteristics that they do not possess;
    • Representations that goods are of a certain quality that they are not;
    • Representations that goods are new when they are used; and
    • Failure to disclose information concerning goods or services which was known at the time of the transaction if such failure to disclose was intended to induce the consumer into a transaction into which the consumer would not have entered into had the information been disclosed

    Breach of Warranty – Oftentimes, sellers of goods or services will make factual claims regarding their goods or services. These are known as express warranties, and they can be either oral or written. Also, Texas has held that certain warranties are implied, regardless of whether the seller has made such statements to the consumer. The two most common implied warranties are the warranty of “merchantability” and the warranty of “fitness for a particular purpose.”

    Merchantability – The implied warranty of merchantability merely means that the good is suitable for its ordinary use.

    Fitness – The implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose is implied where the seller knows the specific manner in which the buyer intends to use the product and the seller represents that the good will serve the buyer’s particular purpose.

    Unconscionable Acts – The DTPA also applies to any act of a seller whereby the seller takes advantage of the consumer’s lack of knowledge, ability, experience, or capacity to a grossly unfair degree.

    Insurance Code Violations – A consumer may also bring an action against an insurance company through the DTPA for violations of the Texas Insurance Code. It is unclear to many experts why bringing such action through the DTPA would be beneficial, considering that the Insurance Code provides consumers with essentially the same remedies. Nonetheless, such violations may still be brought through the DTPA.

    “Tie-In Statutes” – Aside from the Insurance Code, the DTPA specifically allows violations of certain other statutes to be brought through the DTPA. For many of these violations, the DTPA is the more favorable avenue in which to bring a lawsuit because the remedies available under the DTPA may be greater than if the suit is brought under the statute.


Economic Damages/Mental Anguish/Up to Treble Damages

    Economic Damages – Economic Damages are always available through the DTPA. These damages consist of “compensatory damages for pecuniary loss, including the cost of repair or replacement.” In plain language, these damages are the out-of-pocket costs or monetary loss caused by a seller’s violation of the DTPA.

    Mental Anguish Damages – Damages for Mental Anguish are available when the seller’s violation of the DTPA causes the consumer a relatively high degree of mental pain and distress, which is more than just mere disappointment, anger, resentment, or embarrassment. The consumer must be able to show that the violation caused a substantial disruption in the consumer’s daily routine.

    Additional Damages – Additional damages are oftentimes referred to as “treble damages.” If the seller is in violation of the DTPA, and the consumer can prove that the seller acted “knowingly,” then the consumer may be awarded up to three times (treble) the consumer’s economic damages. Moreover, if the seller is found to have acted “intentionally,” the consumer may be awarded up to treble economic and mental anguish damages.

    Attorney’s Fees – If the consumer prevails under the DTPA, the consumer is entitled to recover his or her attorney’s fees.


Wilhite & Associates, P.C. | Houston Civil Litigation Lawyers

Contact us when you need experienced DTPA lawyers in the Houston Area. Our Houston civil litigation attorneys are experienced in representing client for this matter. Call us today at (281) 537-2171 or submit information pertaining to your case in our online form. Wilhite & Associates, P.C. handles Deceptive Trade Practices Act matters in Houston or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Washington County, Grimes County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.

Wilhite & Associates, P.C. represents clients from all over Southeast Texas, including:

Harris County - Aldine, Atascocita, Barrett, Barker, Baytown, Bellaire, Brownwood, Bunker Hill Village, Channelview, Clear Lake, Cloverleaf, Crosby, Cypress, Deer Park, East Houston, El Lago, Galena Park, Hedwig Village, Highlands, Hilshire Village, Houston, Hudson, Humble, Hunters Creek Village, Jacinto City, Jersey Village, Katy, Kingwood, Klein, La Porte, Louetta, Lynchburg, Nassau Bay, North Houston, Pasadena, Piney Point Village, Seabrook, Sheldon, Shoreacres, South Houston, Southside Place, Spring, Spring Valley, Taylor Lake Village, Tomball, Webster, West University Place

Montgomery County - Conroe, Cut and Shoot, Magnolia, Montgomery, Oak Ridge North, Panorama Village, Patton Village, Roman Forest, Shenandoah, Splendora, Stagecoach, Willis, Woodbranch, Woodloch, The Woodlands

Fort Bend County - Arcola, Beasley, Fairchilds, Fulshear, Kendleton, Meadows Place, Missouri City, Needville, Orchard, Pleak, Richmond, Rosenberg, Simonton, Stafford, Sugar Land, Thompsons

Waller County - Brookshire, Hempstead, Pattison, Pine Island, Prairie View, Waller

Grimes County - Anderson, Bedias, Iola, Navasota, Todd Mission

Washington County - Brenham, Burton, Chappell Hill

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This site is sponsored by George W. Wilhite, P.C. Our principal office is located in Harris County, Texas at 17101 Kuykendahl Rd., Houston, TX 77068.

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