Deceptive marketing, unfair sales tactics, telemarketing scams, and other schemes are often used to take advantage of consumers. All 50 states have enacted laws intended to protect consumers and help stamp out these unfair practices.
Consumers have a right to believe that others will deal with them fairly and legally when goods are sold. As our economy grows more global, and as companies become bigger and less personal, it is more and more difficult for a consumer to know whether the party on the other side of a transaction is being fair or not. Likewise, when a dispute arises, consumers are regularly faced with company policy, fine print, or local employees with no authority to resolve disputes. Some corporations take advantage of their size and try to squeeze excessive profits from consumers in violation of the law.
The Tennessee Consumer Protection Act provides that any person who suffers an ascertainable loss of money or property as a result of unfair or deceptive trade practices may recover actual damages in a court of law. This act applies to any kind of consumer transaction, and provides that fraudulent misrepresentation, deception, and unfair competition in the course of conducting a deal for anything of value is prohibited.
Courts may award monetary damages or grant injunctive relief to stop the prohibited conduct from continuing. If a court finds the use of unfair or deceptive practices was willful or done knowing it was deceptive or unfair, the court may award triple damages and attorneys' fees.
Gilreath & Associates monitors the actions of companies who take advantage of consumers and we use the court system to hold them accountable when they engage in illegal behavior. Our consumer fraud attorneys have the skill, experience, and resources to handle complex consumer protection cases. We are committed to using the legal process to help consumers harmed by deceptive, unfair, and abusive business practices.
If you have been the victim of consumer fraud, contact Gilreath & Associates for a knowledgeable evaluation of your case.
Where to Find Out More
The state of Tennessee operates the Consumer Affairs Division of the Department of Commerce and Insurance (http://www.tennessee.gov/consumer). The Consumer Affairs Division was created by the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act in 1977 and works to protect Tennesseans from falling victim to unfair business practices. The Division oversees the registration of certain businesses to make sure they are properly licensed and bonded.
Trusts and monopolies concentrate wealth and economic power in the hands of a few. Economists believe this control is harmful to both individuals and the public at large because it can lead to anticompetitive practices designed to obtain or maintain control of wealth and economic power. Trusts and monopolies limit normal marketplace competition, inspiring undesirable price controls and reducing individual initiative. These restraints of trade can cause markets to stagnate and depress economic growth.
The Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice is responsible for enforcing antitrust laws for the federal government and private lawsuits may also be brought to curb antitrust activities. Most states and the federal government have antitrust laws that apply to virtually all industries and to every level of business, including:
Only a handful of lawyers in the United States have the knowledge to handle anti-trust cases. Chris Gilreath of Gilreath & Associates is one of the select few attorneys with wide experience in this very complicated area of law. Antitrust law includes a broad range of federal antitrust regulations passed by Congress to protect and promote the free enterprise system. These laws include:
- The Sherman Antitrust Act
- The Clayton Act
- The Wilson Act
- The Robinson-Patman Act
- The Federal Trade Commission Act
The purpose of antitrust laws is to prevent:
- Price fixing where the price of goods is artificially manipulated. Horizontal price fixing takes place when competing sellers make agreements to set prices on goods to be sold (agreeing not to sell below a certain price). Vertical price fixing occurs when a manufacturer places restrictions on what a distributor or seller may charge for goods, resulting in prices not falling below an amount imposed by the manufacturer.
- Monopoly where competitors, either alone or in concert with others, attempt to artificially manipulate prices by using their power and size to prevent competitors from operating freely in the marketplace
- Tying where a buyer wants to purchase one product, but the seller requires the buyer to also purchase another product with it. Tying is used to artificially stimulate the purchase of goods that are less desirable in the marketplace and reduces the ability of a consumer to choose between products.
Signs of anti-competitive behavior
If you suspect you may have been subjected to anti-competitive behavior, look for these signs of possible illegal behavior:
- Any evidence two sellers of similar products have agreed to price their products a certain way, to sell only a certain amount of their product, or to sell only in certain areas or to certain customers
- Large price changes involving more than one seller of very similar products of different brands, particularly if the price changes are of equal amounts and occur at the same time
- A seller's statement, "We can't sell that to you. According to our agreement, [other competitor] is the only firm that can sell this to you."
- A seller tells you that it cannot sell you the product you want unless you also buy another product you do not want or did not request
If you have a private or federal anti-trust case, it is important to choose a lawyer with experience like Chris Gilreath of Gilreath & Associates. Contact us today for a knowledgeable evaluation of your case.
If you suspect you have discovered an illegal scheme, arrangement, or agreement that may violate the law, Gilreath & Associates may be able to help you report the problem, as well as pursue legal remedies in court. Generally, cases begin by reporting the problem to the proper authorities. Contact our office to discuss your case in detail.
The Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov) is the primary government agency that polices suspected illegal activity where trade practices impact more than one state. The FTC is the starting place for filing a complaint for a suspected antitrust violation (https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov). The FTC also distributes consumer warnings, and is responsible for maintaining federally created consumer protection programs such as:
- National Do Not Call Registry (http://www.ftc.gov/donotcall)
- Debt collection practices (http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/menus/consumer/credit/debt.shtm)
- Identify theft (http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft)
- Oil and Gas price monitoring (http://www.ftc.gov/ftc/oilgas/gas_price.htm)
- Internet security (http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/menus/consumer/tech/privacy.shtm)
- Consumer credit and loan tips (http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/menus/consumer/credit.shtm)
- Warnings about franchises and business opportunities marketed to consumers (http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/menus/consumer/invest/business.shtm)
Click here for Anti-Trust Frequently Asked Questions