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  6.  — New Hampshire Unfair or Deceptive Act or Practice Laws

Some Consumer Protection Laws in New Hampshire

N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 358-A:1 through 358-A:13: What Is It?

New Hampshire Revised Statutes Chapter 358-A, also called the Consumer Protection Act (“CPA”), is a state law that protects consumers from unfair methods of competition or unfair or deceptive practices by businesses. This law gives the Attorney General and consumers the ability to sue a business that acts in violation of the regulations it imposes. The CPA also applies to business-to-business transactions and provides the opportunity for consumers to file class actions against businesses that they believe have violated the CPA.

What is prohibited?

While the CPA broadly prohibits the use of unfair practices, it also specifically lists out a number of actions that would violate the law. Some examples of such actions include, but are not limited to:

  • Claiming to sell goods that are new when they have already been used;
  • Misrepresenting the origin or source of a good or service;
  • Falsely advertising a good or service (such as by not selling a good or service the way that it was advertised);
  • Making false and damaging remarks about another business’ goods or services;
  • Holding “going out of business sales” that do not comply with certain requirements;
  • Selling gift cards with amounts of $100.00 or less that have expiration dates; and
  • Attempting to pass off their goods or services as those of another business.

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

The CPA applies to all business practices that are conducted in New Hampshire and are seen to be unfair or deceptive. In order to sue a business, a consumer should file a claim with the state. A consumer is not required to provide a pre-suit notice to the business that they wish to sue.

What damages are consumers entitled to?

If a consumer’s lawsuit is successful, they have the opportunity to collect either the amount of actual damages that they are owed or $1,000, whichever is greater. Additionally, they may have the opportunity to collect up to three times and not less than two times the amount of their damages if the court concludes that the business engaged in a willful or knowing violation of the CPA. Furthermore, the consumer may also be awarded with attorney’s fees and other costs.

Do businesses have to pay a civil penalty?

Yes. If a business is found guilty of violating the CPA, they must pay a civil penalty of up to $10,000 per violation.

Are there exemptions?

The CPA does not apply to businesses like publishers, broadcasters, or printers who reproduce and disseminate information and materials.

What is the statute of limitations?

The statute of limitations is a legal provision that sets forth the maximum time the parties involved have to initiate legal proceedings from the date of an alleged unlawful action. The statute of limitations for CPA claims is three years. This means that consumers can only bring suit against a business if the damages they sustained occurred less than three years ago.

N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 358-C:1 through 358-C:5: What Is It?

New Hampshire Revised Statutes Chapter 358-C is also known as the Unfair, Deceptive or Unreasonable Collection Practices Act (“UDUCPA”) and it is a law that governs debt collection practices in New Hampshire. Similar to the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), New Hampshire’s UDUCPA also provides protection for consumers against unlawful actions during debt collection processes. The UDUCPA covers debt collection activities regarding consumer debts and includes transactions made in retail financing, auto loans, mortgages, and credit card purchases. Debt collectors in New Hampshire must abide by both the UDUCPA and the FDCPA.

One main difference between the two laws is that New Hampshire’s UDUCPA also applies to creditors who are attempting to collect their own debts, while the FDCPA does not apply to creditors. Other types of debt collectors that must adhere to the UDUCPA include, but are not limited to, collection agencies, factors, and repossession companies.

What is prohibited?

The UDUCPA prohibits debt collectors from using unfair or deceptive practices to collect a debt. Specifically, some actions that a business may engage in that would be considered as a violation of the law include, but are not limited to:

  • Causing a phone to ring repeatedly at inconvenient times with the intention to abuse a consumer;
  • Calling a consumer at their workplace after they have indicated that they do not want to receive calls there;
  • Causing an expense to the consumer through long distance phone fees or telegram fees;
  • Using abusive or profane language;
  • Threatening to use force or violence;
  • Threatening to take action that they legally cannot take (such as by threatening to garnish a consumer’s wages); and
  • Falsely representing the status or amount of a debt.

Additionally, the law requires for debt collectors to provide consumers with information about their identity and the business’ address, the name of the person who is on the phone, as well as the name of the creditor if the debt collector is a third-party agent. A debt collector must also tell a consumer about their right to dispute a debt. After receiving a dispute notice, a debt collector has to stop their collection activities until the debt is verified.

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

The UDUCPA applies to all debt collectors (creditors, collection agencies, factors, and repossession companies) who operate within New Hampshire. If a consumer believes that a debt collector has engaged in unlawful collection practices, they can sue the debt collector by bringing an action in the superior court of the county that they live in. The UDUCPA also allows for consumers to file class action lawsuits.

What damages are consumers entitled to?

If a consumer is successful, under the UDUCPA, they can receive the greater amount between actual damages or $200.00. The consumer would also be entitled to receiving attorney’s fees and costs. Additionally, a consumer can raise a counterclaim and if the court determines that there was proof of a violation, the consumer could have the opportunity to receive damages and reduce their debt.

It should be noted that a violation of the UDUCPA automatically constitutes a violation of the CPA, which could entitle a consumer to more potential damages.

What is the statute of limitations?

The statute of limitations is a legal provision that sets forth the maximum time the parties involved have to initiate legal proceedings from the date of an alleged unlawful action. The statute of limitations for UDUCPA claims is three years. This means that consumers can only bring suit against a business if the damages they sustained occurred less than three years ago.

The statute of limitations period for debt in New Hampshire:

In New Hampshire, the statute of limitations period for a debt is the maximum amount of time that a creditor can have to initiate legal proceedings against a consumer for nonpayment of a debt. Different types of debt have different statute of limitations periods. In New Hampshire, the statute of limitations period for most types of debt is three years. That said, the statute of limitations period in New Hampshire for auto loan debt is four years, for credit card debt is three years, for medical debt is six years, and for mortgage debt is twenty years. 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.