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Some Consumer Protection Laws in Missouri

Mo. Rev. Stat. §§ 407.010 through 407.307: What Is It?

Missouri Statutes Title 26, Chapter 407.010 through 407.307 is known as the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act (“MMPA”). The MMPA was created to provide legal protection for consumers during commercial activities and transactions. The law declares a number of business actions as unlawful and offers consumers remedies for damages resulting from illegal business practices. The MMPA allows the Attorney General to create rules in order to interpret the law and it also grants the Attorney General with the right to take legal action against businesses that violate this law. Additionally, the MMPA also allows injured consumers to bring civil action lawsuits against offending companies. Under the MMPA, class action lawsuits are also permitted.

What is prohibited?

The MMPA broadly prohibits a number of unlawful business practices. According to the law, the use of deception, fraud, misrepresentation or unfair practices by a business is considered to be unlawful. Additionally, the suppression or omission of material facts regarding trade or commerce is also prohibited. While the MMPA does not list out specific actions that are considered to be violations, based on previous lawsuits that have been filed pursuant to the MMPA some examples of unlawful business practices include false advertising, the failure to honor a warranty, wrongful debt collection, and the misrepresentation of a good or service.

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

Businesses that engage in commercial activities must follow the provisions set forth by the MMPA. If a consumer is injured by an unlawful business practice that violates the MMPA, they have the right to bring a private civil action suit against the offending business. A consumer can bring suit in the county circuit court where the alleged wrongdoing took place or where the business resides. In order to prevail, a valid MMPA claim should contain the following four elements: 1) that the plaintiff purchased or attempted to purchase a good or service from the defendant; 2) that the good or service was purchased for personal, family, or household purposes; 3) that the plaintiff suffered an ascertainable loss of property or money; and 4) that the plaintiff’s loss was directly caused by the unlawful business practice of the defendant. Additionally, to succeed with an MMPA claim, consumers are not required to show either their own reliance on the deceptive practice or intent on the part of the defendant. Furthermore, in Missouri, consumers are able to file a lawsuit without notifying the defendant with a pre-suit letter beforehand.

What damages are consumers entitled to?

If a consumer’s lawsuit is successful, they have the right to recover actual damages. Per the court’s discretion, the consumer may also be awarded with punitive damages, and reasonable attorney’s fees.

What is the statute of limitations?

For claims under the MMPA, the statute of limitations is five years. The statute of limitations begins to accrue when the consumer discovered, or should have discovered, the alleged unlawful business practice.

Are there exemptions?

The regulations provided in the MMPA do not apply to advertisers (such as newspapers or magazines) or broadcasters (such as radio or television stations) that simply provide advertisements without knowledge of the nature of the information that they are providing. Additionally, the MMPA does not apply to companies or institutions that are regulated by Missouri laws that are mentioned in other chapters regarding insurance, credit unions, or finance.

Mo. Rev. Stat. §§ 407.1070 through 407.1090: What Is It?

Missouri Statutes Title 26, Chapter 407.1070 through 407.1090 is called the Missouri Telemarketing Practices Act (“MTPA”). This is a law that governs the actions of businesses when communicating with consumers over the phone.

What is prohibited?

According to the MTPA, there are many actions that a telemarketer cannot engage in when communicating with consumers. Some of these actions include, but are not limited to:

  • Threatening, intimidating, or using profane language when speaking with a consumer; and
  • Causing a consumer’s phone to ring repeatedly in a manner that is considered to be abusive or harassing; and
  • Making calls to a consumer after they have stated that they no longer wish to be called; and
  • Calling a consumer before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. of their local time; and
  • Knowingly using a method to block or circumvent the caller identification capabilities of a consumer’s phone; and
  • Asking a consumer to make an advanced payment for the removal of derogatory information from their credit history or credit report.

Additionally, at the beginning of a call, telemarketers are required to provide certain information to a consumer including the purpose of the phone call, the telemarketer’s name and company, and the nature of the good or service being sold.

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

The MTPA applies to all telemarketers who make calls to consumers. A consumer who is the victim of an unlawful telemarketing practice, and has suffered loss or harm as a result of it, has the right to take legal action against the offending telemarketer.

What damages are consumers entitled to?

Consumers are entitled to recover actual and punitive damages. Additionally, they may be able to receive reasonable attorney’s fees and costs as well.

The statute of limitations period for debt in Missouri:

The state of Missouri has a five-year statute of limitations on debt for open accounts and unwritten contracts, and a ten-year statute of limitations for written contracts. This means that creditors generally cannot file a lawsuit against a consumer for nonpayment of a debt if it has been unpaid for five or ten years, depending on the type of contract or account. That said, different types of debt have different statute of limitations periods. The statute of limitations period in Missouri for auto loan debt is four years, it is five years for credit card debt, it is ten years for medical debt, and it is ten years for mortgage debt.  Once the statute of limitations period on a debt expires, a creditor cannot successfully sue a consumer for nonpayment of the debt. If a consumer promises to make a payment on an 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.