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Consumer Fraud Claims
We have all heard stories about businesses that engage in deceptive or misleading conduct that injures innocent purchasers. For example, a product manufacture may advertise that its product has certain beneficial qualities, like the snake oil salesperson of old who claimed that the snake oil relieved all manner of ailments when, in fact, it did not. There are, however, far more contemporary examples, and they can arise in virtually any transaction between a business and a consumer. Fortunately, many states, including Illinois, have statutes that protect consumers against deceptive practices by businesses. These statutes are commonly referred to as consumer fraud statutes.
For example, the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act prohibits unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices, including but not limited to the use or employment of any deception, fraud, false pretense, false promise, misrepresentation, or the concealment, suppression or omission of any material fact, with intent that others rely upon the concealment, suppression or omission of such material fact, in the conduct of any trade or commerce. In order to prevail in a consumer fraud act claim in Illinois, a plaintiff must prove that: (1) the defendant engaged in a deceptive act or practice; (2) the defendant intended that the plaintiff rely on the act or statement; (3) the deception occurred in the course of conduct involving trade or commerce; (4) actual damage to the plaintiff; and (5) the damages were proximately caused by the deception.
As their name implies, consumer fraud claims are brought by consumers, meaning that one must have purchased goods or services through commerce before such a claim can exist, and that businesses are typically ineligible to be plaintiffs in a consumer fraud action. The primary purpose of the consumer fraud act is to protect innocent purchasers and to discourage business from engaging in deceptive business practices by causing guilty parties to pay restitution and, in some cases, punitive damages. Further, although the word “fraud” appears in many consumer fraud statutes, consumer fraud claims generally differ from traditional fraud claims. For example, unlike common law fraud, a plaintiff does not have to prove that the defendant acted in bad faith or even intended to deceive the plaintiff, which means that even an innocent misrepresentation may give rise to a claim under the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act. Similarly, consumer fraud claims generally do not require that the plaintiff detrimentally rely on the deceptive conduct (this exception can arise, for example, in consumer fraud claims relating to the sale of new homes by subsequent purchasers of the new home). Consumer fraud claims brought under the Illinois statute allow for many different types of relief, including: (1) economic damages; (2) injunctive relief; (3) punitive damages; (4) attorney's fees to the prevailing party and (5) court costs. Notably, the Illinois consumer fraud statute has a three year statute of limitations.
The Howard Law Firm llc has considerable experience representing parties in consumer fraud claims, and has both defended and prosecuted such claims. Wether you are a defendant who has been sued for consumer fraud or are a plaintiff who believes that a consumer fraud claim exists, The Howard Law Firm llc can help you. Please call us today for a free consultation.