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Some Consumer Protection Laws in Georgia

Ga. Code Ann. §§ 10-1-390 et seq.: What Is It?

Georgia Code Title 10, Chapter 1, Article 15 is commonly known as the Georgia Fair Business Practices Act (“FBPA”) and it is a state law that prohibits businesses from using unfair or deceptive practices during consumer transactions. The law provides protection to consumers by laying out regulations and remedies for violations. The FBPA grants the administrator the right to adopt rules in order to interpret the law. The administrator may also take legal action against businesses that violate this law. Additionally, the FBPA allows private parties who have been injured by violations of the law to sue offending businesses. However, these lawsuits may only be filed individually and not in a representative capacity. Thus, class actions lawsuits in regard to this statute are not permitted.

What is prohibited?

The FBPA states that unfair or deceptive business practices in the marketplace are unlawful. The law contains a non-exhaustive list of actions that are prohibited and among these, some examples include:

  • Falsely representing that goods are new when they have been used or are damaged; and
  • Using bait-and-switch advertising tactics; and
  • Providing misleading statements about the goods or services of another business; and
  • Falsely representing the price of an item; and
  • Falsely claiming that a good comes from or was manufactured in a particular location; and
  • Advertising goods or services without the intent to meet expected demand; and
  • Causing consumers to be confused or to misunderstand the source or sponsorship of a particular good or service.

Furthermore, the FBPA also provides specific regulations in areas like telemarketing, promotional giveaways, price gouging, kosher food sales, and health spa contracts. For example, during telemarketing transactions, telemarketers cannot ask a consumer to pay a fee in advance in order to remove certain information from their credit history or record and they also cannot ask for payment from an individual in order to aid the return of money or possible items that were lost in other transactions. Additionally, the law states that during a state of emergency, businesses cannot increase the prices of their goods to prices that are substantially higher than what they were before the state of emergency. The FBPA also provides a number of specific provisions for health spas that revolve around requirements for consumer contracts. For example, the law states that contracts cannot exceed a term of 36 months, that they must clearly state rules and regulations of the business, that they must clearly provide cancellation and refund policies, and that they must provide the consumer with the right to terminate the contract within seven business days of becoming a member.

Who does the law apply to and how can consumers sue?

The FBPA applies to businesses that engage in consumer transactions that relate to sales, leases, or rentals of goods, services, and property. Consumers who are injured or damaged as a result of a business’ unlawful practice have the right to take legal action against said businesses. In order to do so, at least 30 days before they file a lawsuit, the consumer must first send the business a demand notice that describes the unfair or deceptive business practice and the injury that they suffered. The business can then provide a settlement offer that the consumer can either accept or reject. If the consumer rejects the offer, they can proceed with the lawsuit. In the case that the FBPA claim is brought by a consumer as a counterclaim in a lawsuit in which a consumer was sued, the consumer would not have to provide a pre-suit notice.

What damages are a consumer entitled to?

If a business violated the FBPA, it must provide the consumer with actual damages. Additionally, if the court finds that the business intentionally committed a violation of the law, the consumer would be entitled to three times the amount of their actual damages. The business that is the defendant in the lawsuit would also have to pay for the consumer’s reasonable attorney’s fees and costs. However, if the court believes that the consumer rejected a reasonable settlement offer from the defendant, the court can take away the consumer’s right to attorney’s fees and costs.

What is the statute of limitations?

The statute of limitations for FBPA claims is two years, which means that consumers can only bring suit against a business if the alleged violation occurred less than two years before when they want to file suit.

Are there exemptions?

The regulations provided by the FBPA do not apply to actions that are authorized by a state or federal agency. The law also does not apply to acts done by publishers, broadcasting stations, or other businesses that simply disseminate or provide advertisements without knowledge of the possible false or misleading nature of the advertisement or a financial interest in the advertised good or service.

Ga. Code Ann. §§ 46-5-27: What Is It?

Ga. Code Ann. §§ 46-5-27 is also called “The Georgia Do Not Call Law” and the “Do Not Call Law”. This law protects consumers from telephone solicitors by establishing regulations that telephone solicitors must abide by.

What is prohibited?

The Do Not Call Law contains provisions that telephone solicitors must follow when having telephone communications with consumers. Most importantly, solicitors cannot communicate with individuals who have already objected to receiving telephone solicitations or are on the Do Not Call List. Additionally, telephone solicitors must identify themselves at the beginning of calls and they cannot use any methods that block a consumer’s caller ID service.  Some calls are exempt, such as those from charitable organizations, political campaigns, and businesses with which a consumer has a prior relationship, unless the consumer has asked them not to call.

What damages are consumers entitled to?

If a consumer was damaged as a result of a violation of the Do Not Call Law, they can bring an action against the solicitor to enjoin their illegal actions, and also recover up to $2,000.00 for each violation or actual damages for each violation, whichever is greater.

What is the statute of limitations?

The statute of limitations for Do Not Call Law claims is one year, which means that consumers can only bring suit against a business if the alleged violation occurred less than one year before when they want to file suit.

Do businesses have to pay a civil penalty?

Yes. If a business is found guilty of violating the Do Not Call Law, penalties can be assessed against it by the federal government.  The Do Not Call law is a part of the National Do Not Call Registry, which is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) and the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”).

The statute of limitations period for debt in Georgia:

In Georgia, the statute of limitations period for most types of debt is six years. This means that a creditor cannot sue a consumer for nonpayment of a debt that is more than six years old. That said, different types of debt have different statute of limitations periods, and the statute of limitations period for auto loan debt in Georgia is four years, it is four years for credit card debt, it is four years for medical debt, and it is six years for mortgage debt. If a consumer promises to make a payment on the alleged debt, or makes even a small payment, it could potentially restart the clock on the statute of limitations.

Some of the places that a consumer can look to for help or answers to questions:

The laws and statutes discussed above can change. So, in the state that a consumer resides in, a consumer protection agency, the Office of the Attorney General, and/or a consumer protection attorney who is licensed in a consumer’s respective state can help a consumer in getting help, up to date information and interpretations, and/or with determining the answers to their questions in regard to the aforementioned laws. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau can assist as well.