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What is the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act, Chapter 93A?

Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 93A contains a total of eleven sections about the regulation of business practices for the protection of consumers. Why is this important? Among other reasons, Chapter 93A protects consumers or businesses against persons or entities engaged in trade or commerce from “[u]nfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of any trade or commerce….” Section 9 of the Consumer Protection Act applies to consumers, while Section 11 of the Act applies to a business’s claim for relief.

Suppose that a man named Joe worked for a company that was headquartered outside of the Commonwealth. Joe worked for the company not as an employee, but instead as an independent contractor. His professional duties included working in Massachusetts to sell “all natural nut butter” that was free from most allergens, including dairy, to stores in the Commonwealth. Many customers in Massachusetts purchased the product, because it claimed to be “natural” and “free of dairy.” The company knew, however, that the product contained traces of dairy, but did not properly label their product with the accurate information. Joe sold the product to many stores in the Commonwealth, which in turn, sold it to customers. As time went on, many consumers and stores were upset or ill; the product contained dairy and was not as “natural” as they had hoped. May consumers or businesses file a claim against the company?

In this matter, a court would likely provide some relief to the consumer plaintiffs. First, the unfair or deceptive act is the failure to disclosure that the product was not natural or that it contained dairy. This would make the issue at bar a case a breach of contract. Second, the breach of contract occurs in the Commonwealth, which means that Chapter 93A would continue to apply. Third, under Section 9, consumers could sue the company directly and include a 93A claim. Under Section 11, the stores may be able to file a claim against Joe or the company. If an individual or entity sues Joe he may be able to file a third-party complaint against the company.

Note, however, that there are some exceptions to the applicability of the consumer protection statutes. Under both sections of law above, individuals and entities that are involved in the same business venture or company cannot assert Chapter 93A claims against one another. Examples of situations that are not included under Chapter 93A protection are disputes between LLC members, disagreements between stockholders of a corporation, arguments between partners in a business venture, or disputes between employers and employees. Independent contractors are not considered employees. Independent contractors generally offer services to the general public. As such, independent contractors may include claims under Chapter 93A in a complaint against an entity.

A claim that arises out of a purely private dispute is also not a claim that may rise to the level of a Chapter 93A claim of relief. In Massachusetts, claims that are too private to give rise to a Chapter 93A violation include disputes between condominium owners and members of a condo association; a dispute between two friends about a monetary loan; the sale of a home; or a one-time home rental. Massachusetts probate courts do not have jurisdiction over Consumer Protection Act claims.

Other examples where Chapter 93A does not apply are as follows: a simple breach of contract between two parties; a dispute about whether money is owed; foreclosure actions; and a breach of warranty under Section 11. Chapter 93A may apply for a breach of agreement if the breaching party acted in complete disregard of the known agreement or provisions of the agreement in a way as to intend to create some kind of special benefit or privilege for itself.

Additionally, Chapter 93A violations are not typically included within negligence claims. In order to include a Consumer Protection Act violation, the negligence must have resulted in an unfair or deceptive act or practice.

One important aspect of the Massachusetts Consumer Protection law is that the unfair or deceptive act must have occurred primarily or substantially in the Commonwealth. The plaintiffs need not be from Massachusetts, but the unfair or deceptive practice or practices must have occurred in Massachusetts.

Another important aspect is the requirement of a demand letter prior to the plaintiff initiating suit. Under some circumstances, if the plaintiff prevails on his or her claim under Chapter 93A, the plaintiff may receive treble damages.

If you have any questions about issues involvingtort law, consumer protection, or personal injury, you should contact a competent attorney licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth. Our experienced professionals may be able to work on behalf of you. Please contact our offices at your earliest convenience by phone at 978-225-9030 or complete a contact form on our website. We will return your inquiry with prompt attention.

Categories: damages, advice, tort law

The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.

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