What Is The "Deceptive Trade Practices Act" The primary purpose of the DTPA is to protect consumers against false, misleading, and deceptive business and insurance practices, unconscionable actions, and breaches of warranty. It does so by prohibiting certain acts and practices that tend to deceive and mislead consumers
Which Transactions Does the DTPA Apply To? Most consumer transactions are covered by the DTPA. Although the DTPA does not cover every deceptive or unconscionable act or practice, it is quite broad. The DTPA provides that "false, misleading, or deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of any trade or commerce are hereby declared unlawful."
The DTPA prohibits certain acts or practices "in the conduct of any trade or commerce." This is a very broad provision. "Trade and commerce" means "the advertising, offering for sale, lease, or distribution of any good or service, or any property, tangible or intangible, real, personal, or mixed, any other article, commodity, or thing of value wherever situated, and shall include any trade or commerce directly or indirectly affecting the people of this state." The term "goods" includes tangible things or real property purchased or leased for use. The word "service" includes work, labor, or services purchased or leased for use, including services furnished in connection with the sale or repair of goods. The DTPA does not apply to the rendering of a professional service, the essence of which is the providing of advice, judgment, opinion or similar professional skill.
What Is Included Within the "Laundry List" of Acts and Practices Made Illegal by the DTPA? The DTPA contains a "laundry list" of specific practices that are prohibited. It contains 27 acts that violate the DTPA and for which consumers may sue, if the consumers relied on the act to their detriment.
How Long Can You Wait to File a Suit? A DTPA lawsuit generally must be filed within two years after the date on which the false, misleading, or deceptive act or practice occurred. If the deceptive act took place over a period of time, then, to be safe, you should begin suit two years from the date of the first such action. Some violations of the DTPA, by their very nature are concealed or difficult to detect. In these cases, the consumer has a longer time within which to file suit; two years after he or she discovered, or in the exercise of reasonable diligence should have discovered, the occurrence of the false, misleading, or deceptive act or practice. Finally, there is a special provision stating that, if the consumer proves that failure to begin the lawsuit within these time limits was caused by the defendant knowingly engaging in conduct solely calculated to induce the consumer to refrain from or postpone the commencement of the suit, the right to file suit may be extended for an additional 180 days. In other words, if a violator of the DTPA strings you along by promising to make good, and does this intending to make you wait past the two-year time limit, and then "changes his or her mind" once the time limit has passed, he or she may not be able to get away with the trickery.
This information is not intended to be a substitute for the legal advice of a licensed attorney. If you have any questions regarding a particular issue or topic we suggest you seek legal counsel. The above information is adapted from the brochure "A Guide to the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Consumer Protection Act," published by the State Bar of Texas.