Deceptive Trade Practices

The Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act ---- Consumer Protection Act, or "DTPA" as it is commonly known was enacted in 1973 for the purpose of providing special protection to consumers in Texas who are victims of four types of conduct 1) false, misleading or deceptive acts, (2) breaches of express or implied warranties, (3) unconscionable actions or courses of action, and (4) violation of the DTPA's counterpart in the Insurance Code.

Immediately behind my desk is a book dealing with prospective DTPA cases and how to handle them. It is over two inches thick on 8 1/2" x 11" and printed front and back on each page plus a smaller supplemental "desk book" for quick reference. The specific statutes dealing with the DTPA are found in the Texas Business & Commerce Code, Sections 17.41 thru 17.63. It's companion statutes are found in the Texas Insurance Code Sections 541.001 thru 541.162. Another statute dealing with DTPA issues is found in the Texas Property Code Sections 27.001 thru 27.007, and sections 401.001 thru 430.011.

There is a long history of amendments with the DTPA. The history of these changes is important to attorneys and their clients to understand the current state of the law.

In 1995, the state legislature substantially overhauled the DTPA & Chapter 541 of the Insurance Code. There have been more minor changes since that time.

Section 17.44 of the DTPA tells the courts: This subchapter shall be liberally construed and applied to promote its underlying purposes, which are to protect consumers against false, misleading, and deceptive business practices, unconscionable actions, and breaches of warranty and to provide efficient and economical procedures to secure such protection.

The first thing to determine when thinking of pursueing a DTPA claim is to see if a person meets the definition of a consumer. Section 17.45 (4) defines a "consumer" as "an individual, partnership, corporation, ... who seeks or acquires by purchase or lease, any goods or services."

Section 17.45 (1) defines "goods" as "tangible chattels or real property purchased or leased for use". "Tangible chattels" has been defined as "those items of personal property which may be seen, weighed, measured, felt or touched."

Section 17.45 (2) defines "services" to mean "work, labor or service provided or leased for use, including services provided in connection with the sale or repair of goods."

Who can be sued? Anyone engaged in "trade and commerce" can be sued unless exempted by the DTPA.