Unfair Business Practices
Unfair business practices encompass fraud, misrepresentation, and oppressive or unconscionable acts or practices by a business entity against consumers or other businesses. California’s Unfair Competition Law (also known as Unfair Business Practices Act), Business and Professions Code Section 17200 et seq., is California’s most frequently used consumer protection statute, with the number of cases filed with Section 17200 claims increasing from year to year.
“Unfair competition” is defined in Section 17200 as encompassing any one of the following types of business “wrongs”: (1) an “unlawful” business act or practice; (2) an “unfair” business act or practice; (3) a “fraudulent” business act or practice; (4) “unfair, deceptive, untrue or misleading advertising”; and (5) any act prohibited by Business and Professions Code Sections 17500 through 17577.5. Section 17500 (also known as false advertising law) makes it unlawful to engage in deceptive, false and misleading advertising in connection with the sale or disposition of real or personal property or services.
The reach of Section 17200 is extremely broad. See, Cel-Tech Communications, Inc. v. Los Angeles Cellular Telephone Co. (1999) 20 Cal.4th 163, 180. The definitions in Section 17200 are disjunctive – in other words, each of the five “wrongs” discussed above operates independently from the others. Hence, a business practice is prohibited as unfair or fraudulent even if not unlawful and vice versa.
Any person, firm or corporation which is damaged by unfair business practices may bring an action to obtain an injunction to stop unfair, unlawful, or fraudulent business practices or false advertising, and to obtain restitution for money lost or gained by the defendant as a result of the wrongful conduct. Attorney’s fees from the defendant are often available, especially when the relief obtained confers a significant benefit to a large number of citizens.
Our law firm represents plaintiffs and defendants in cases involving disputes over unfair business practices and unfair competition including unlawful contract agreements, fraud, false advertising, and other unfair business practices. Call us for a free, no-obligation consultation.