Consumer Protection Laws Not Only Protect Individuals, But Also Businesses
While it is true that a number of consumer laws have historically been applied to individuals and households, according to recent reports, this is changing: A growing number of those behind these laws, including the courts, are increasingly defining “consumer” to also include small- and medium-sized businesses when it comes to prohibitions on deceptive or unfair acts, as we discuss below.
Latest Enforcement Actions
When it comes to interpretation of consumer protection laws, the courts frequently look to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and its enforcement actions as guidance, and the FTC has brought a number of enforcement actions against certain types of practices involving business lending practices, labor, payments, and processors, where violations of consumer laws have been involved. Specifically, in 2020, the agency took an interest in prosecuting a lending practice known as merchant cash advancing, where allegations of deceptive practices were brought against companies who were allegedly deceptive about how much financing was provided to small- and medium-sized businesses (as consumers) due to unauthorized withdrawals and fee disclosures. These cases resulted in approximately $10 million in settlements.
In addition, in 2022, the agency effectively expanded coverage of the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act by suing companies who allegedly engaged in false representations in their sales pitches for automatically-renewing accounts, fees, and savings opportunities, resulting in close to $5 million in recovery for harmed businesses. In addition to compensatory damages, the court also ordered the remedy of specific performance by allowing harmed businesses to cancel their services.
The Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act
The Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act is being used more and more frequently to protect consumers, including small- and medium-sized businesses. The main purpose of the law is to protect all consumers from “data passing,” or passing on the consumer’s payment information to other merchants for separate, third-party unauthorized online sales. This includes attempting to charge entities by including a “negative option feature,” or a provision buried within an agreement to sell goods or services which, under the consumer’s silence, automatically enlists them as taking an affirmative action to engage in another payment agreement.
Columbus, Ohio Consumer Law & General Counsel Business Representation
These decisions not only have implications for harmed businesses, but for those seeking to ensure that they themselves are in compliance with consumer laws. As a result, businesses should also ensure that they are regularly reviewing and taking consumer complaints seriously.
At Kohl & Cook Law Firm LLC, our Columbus consumer law attorneys are not only committed to consumer claims, but also provide general council business representation. If you are a business that is concerned that its right to enjoy certain consumer protections have been violated, or a business that wants to ensure that it is in compliance with consumer protection laws, our attorneys can help. Contact us today to find out more.