Law Offices of John Michael Jensen
Unfair Business Practices
In California, unfair business practices are largely governed by the Unfair Competition Law (UCL), which is codified in Section 17200 of the California Business and Professions Code. This statute is broad and provides a framework for civil litigation to address a variety of wrongful business conduct. It prohibits any unlawful, unfair, or fraudulent business act or practice, as well as unfair, deceptive, untrue, or misleading advertising.
Additionally, the False Advertising Law (FAL), codified in Sections 17500 and following of the California Business and Professions Code, specifically targets false advertising and overlaps significantly with the UCL.
Key provisions of the laws governing unfair business practices include:
- Prohibited Conduct:
- Unlawful Acts: Any business practice that is forbidden by law, regardless of whether it is civil or criminal, can be pursued under the UCL.
- Unfair Acts: Practices that the legislature has not specifically forbidden but are against public policy or are unethical or oppressive can be considered unfair.
- Fraudulent Acts: Practices that are likely to deceive consumers also fall under the UCL.
- Standing to Sue:
- Under the UCL, any person who has suffered injury in fact and has lost money or property as a result of the unfair competition may file a lawsuit.
- Public prosecutors, such as the California Attorney General, district attorneys, and some city attorneys, can also bring actions on behalf of the general public.
- The UCL provides for equitable remedies, such as injunctions and restitution, but not for damages. Civil penalties may be available in actions brought by public prosecutors.
- Statute of Limitations:
- Claims under the UCL and FAL must typically be brought within four years of the occurrence of the unfair act.
What Claims Can Be Unfair Business Practices:
Claims of unfair business practices can encompass a wide range of activities. Here are some common examples:
- False Advertising:
- Making false or misleading statements in advertisements or promotions about products or services.
- Misleading Consumers:
- Engaging in actions that create a likelihood of confusion or misunderstanding about the source, sponsorship, approval, or certification of goods or services.
- Fraudulent Business Practices:
- Conduct that is likely to deceive consumers, even if no one has actually been misled, injured, or defrauded.
- Unlawful Business Practices:
- Any act that violates California law, including safety standards, employment laws, and environmental regulations, can constitute an unfair business practice.
- Unfair Business Tactics:
- Acts that violate the policy or spirit of California’s antitrust laws, which promote fair competition, or practices that are oppressive, unscrupulous, or substantially injurious to consumers.
- Bait-and-Switch Tactics:
- Advertising a product at a certain price without the intent to sell it, intending to switch consumers to a more expensive item.
- Privacy Violations:
- Improperly collecting, using, or disclosing personal information can also be pursued under the UCL.
By enabling a broad spectrum of claims to be brought under the UCL and FAL, California law provides robust protection against unfair business practices. This allows both consumers and competitors to address and rectify unfair, unlawful, or fraudulent business practices they encounter.