When a consumer or a business believes that another business has violated the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Law by engaging is some unfair or deceptive practice, there is a specific legal process that must be followed in order to properly file a lawsuit. This legal process starts with the Chapter 93A demand letter and may lead to the filing of a complaint.
The business litigation attorneys at the Katz Law Group have the years of experience needed to ensure that the proper legal process is followed and your business does not suffer from someone else's deceptive trade practice.
Chapter 93A Demand Letter By Consumers
The first step in filing a complaint under the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Law is to file a "demand letter" that complies with the specific rules set forth by the State Legislature. The purpose of the letter is to put the business defendant on notice of the possible lawsuit and to encourage out-of-court settlement when possible.
The demand letter is required to:
- Be sent to the business at least thirty (30) days prior to the filing of an actual lawsuit;
- State that the claimant is a "consumer" - someone who engages in commerce for primarily personal, family, or household purposes;
- Identify the claimant's full name and address;
- Describe the unfair or deceptive act allegedly committed by the business;
- Outline the injury suffered by the consumer; and
- Specify the relief that is being sought.
While it is not specifically required, the letter is often sent by certified mail, return receipt requested, in order to prove delivery of the demand letter.
After the letter is sent, the business has thirty (30) days to respond to it. The business has several options moving forward. The business can make a settlement offer which, if rejected, could be the basis for a reduction in the plaintiff's damages later by the court. Or, the business could refuse to make a settlement offer, in which case it could be subject to double or even triple damages if it refused to offer relief in bad faith.
When a business is the plaintiff and decides to sue another business for violations of the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Laws, Section 11 of Chapter 93A applies, and the rules are a little different. For business-to-business complaints, no demand letter is required.
Like with consumers, the offer of a settlement is permitted by the section, and if the offer is later deemed reasonable the damages may be limited by the court at a later date.
With businesses, an additional rule applies. The deceptive or unfair acts must have occurred primarily and substantially within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. This limitation is important because it can mean that the business committing a deceptive trade practice is outside the reach of the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Law.
Failure to Comply With Demand Letter Requirements
When a demand letter is required, it is important to comply with all of the requirements. If the plaintiff does not file a demand letter or files a letter that does not meet the specific requirements of Chapter 93A the case could be dismissed. Dismissal of the case could be temporary or permanent depending on the particular situation, so it is important to have an experienced attorney who is familiar with the requirements of these demand letters.
The consumer's response to the business' settlement offer is also important. As the consumer, he or she has the right to accept or deny the offer. However, both choices have potential ramifications down the road, so depending on the consumer's choice the case could proceed very differently. Acceptance of the offer ends the case. Rejection of the offer means the consumer may proceed with his or her lawsuit, but if the court finds that the original offer was "reasonable" the damages the consumer can be awarded at trial could be limited by the court.
No matter the situation, with the right legal representation by your side, you can ensure your business' rights are protected in the complex legal process. Demand letters have specific requirements, and if a demand letter is not filed properly, it could be dismissed. You do not have to tackle someone else's unfair trade practices alone.
Consult a Massachusetts Business Litigation Attorney
The Katz Law Group can help you fight to protect your business interests against another business owner's underhanded techniques. Contact us today for a consultation. Our lawyers have nearly 40 years of experience representing businesses in Massachusetts, including in Worcester, Marlborough, and Framingham.