Businesses, as well as consumers, are often unaware of their legal rights and possible liabilities in connection with trade practices in North and South Carolina. Businesses operating in North or South Carolina must know their responsibilities under consumer protection law in order to avoid potentially strict financial penalties.
If you’re a consumer whose rights have been violated or a business that is facing a civil action then contact us today! At the Law Offices of Jason E. Taylor, we have experienced lawyers ready to fight for you.
Below is some crucial information regarding the laws of unfair trade practices in South Carolina:
South Carolina Deceptive Trade Practices Act (SCUTPA)
From the days of barter to the modern eCommerce era, buyers always want the best deals while sellers are continuously looking for ways to make profits. If both parties in transactions are fair and honest, it works perfectly fine.
However, quite often, we see sellers making false claims and using stealthy tactics to generate more sales, such as hiding product defects or misrepresenting a discount. Such tactics are legally known as ‘deceptive trade practices.’
Fortunately, to help buyers from such practices and tactics, laws have been laid down by the state. It is handled under the South Carolina Unfair Trade Practice Act.
In SC Code Section 39-5-20 it is illegal for any company or person to engage in:
- Unfair competitive methods
- Unfair trade practices or acts
- Deceptive trade practices or acts
The actions should be in the conduct of any commerce or trade, as defined in SC Code Section 39-5-10.
Legal Actions under the SCUTPA
Here are some legal actions that can be taken in case of unfair trade practices:
As per SC Code Section 39-5-50, an attorney general can file an action where they ask the court for the issuance of the injunction to prevent a business or an individual from engaging in unfair and deceptive trade practices.
- Civil Penalties
Under SC Code Section 39-5-110, the attorney general is authorized to seek a civil fine, which can be up to $5000/violation. Thus, if a business or an individual violates the injunction conditions as issued in Section 39-5-50, the fine shall be increased to $15,000/violation.
- Lawsuits for Damages
Under SC Code Section 39-5-140, the victim of unfair trade practices is authorized to file a lawsuit for damages. This lawsuit will help you recover actual damages from the business. Put simply, actual damages here mean:
- Fixing property damage expense
- Money that the deceiver unfairly took from you
- Lost wages
- Out-of-pocket expenses as a result of the deceiver’s shady business practices
It is important to understand here that not only can you, the victim, sue the ‘bad actor/deceiver” for the damage done but if they willfully or knowingly violated SCUTPA; the court shall award treble damages. These damages are three times the actual damage plus the lawyer’s fees and the court costs.
Types of Deceptive or Unfair Trade Practices
A variety of unfair trade practices automatically fall under the South Carolina Unfair Trade Practice Act. These include but are not limited to the following:
- If auto lenders ask for or require the full amount of comprehensive insurance coverage as one of the many conditions condition of qualifying for a car loan
- Admission tickets resale. This is for the scalper and not the original ticket seller.
- If someone uses fictitious names to misrepresent the geographic origin, business location, or manufacturing facility ownership intentionally.
- Deceptive or false advertising for live musical performances
- Misleading, deceptive, and false advertising by lawyers such as creating an unreasonable expectation of outcomes
- Food product misrepresentation and stating that it is a product of South Carolina when in actuality it is not
- Price gouging when the state is in an emergency or national crisis
- Selling fuel below cost to hurt competition
- Wholesalers who sell products for lower prices at retail
- Soliciting contributions or donations of services and goods at the time of a disaster and if these solicitations are misleading willfully and knowingly
- Glass companies paying for referrals, paying the person whose glass is broken, paying the individual’s insurance deductible in exchange for their business, or to make false insurance claims;
- If a business or an individual commits lies, fraud, or lies regarding the quality of goods and services that they offer to get you to buy their products or hire them for their services also falls under the violation of the South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act.
When Can the Victim Sue The Other Party Under The South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act?
The practices that are strictly prohibited under the South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act, apply to deceptive or unfair practices that are explicitly listed in the statute, and some are authorized by appellate opinions. Therefore, if you think that someone has taken advantage of you, but you’re not sure if their conduct falls under this Act, then feel free to contact our South Carolina lawyers. We can provide you with a free consultation and determine whether or not you have a case.
At the Law Offices of Jason E. Taylor, our South Carolina lawyers can fight to protect your rights. We can help you work toward conformance with consumer protection laws. Our goal is to help clients get justice. We’ll do whatever we can in our legal capacity so that you receive justice in a timely manner.
Please feel free to contact us at 800-351-3008. Our operators are available 24/7.