Craigslist Buyers Have Rights Under the CSPA
In 2012, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office filed a lawsuit against a Cincinnati man for failing to deliver goods he offered for sale on Craigslist, charging him with violating Ohio’s Consumer Sales Practices Act (the “CSPA”). Kevin L. Hunter of Cincinnati was charged by the Ohio Attorney General for failing to deliver goods he offered for sale on Craigslist, primarily automobile tires and rims. State and federal databases indicated that victims lost more than $50,000 to Hunter over seven years.
The Attorney General’s lawsuit charged the man with multiple violations of Ohio’s CSPA, including failure to deliver, misrepresenting price advantages, and advertising and selling without possessing the goods to be sold. In the lawsuit, the Attorney General sought consumer restitution, injunctive relief, and civil penalties.
In a press statement, Attorney General DeWine stated, “It’s bad enough when a consumer ends up paying for shoddy workmanship or products that don’t perform as promised, but paying for something and getting nothing is outrageous.”
The scammer was found to have committed unfair and deceptive acts and practices in violation of the CSPA by: 1) accepting payments from consumers for goods and then failing to deliver the purchased goods and failing to return payments to consumers; 2) representing that specific price advantages existed, when they did not; 3) selling consumer goods without taking reasonable steps to acquire the goods necessary to complete the transactions; and 4) advertising and selling goods without having ownership or possession of the goods and failing to disclose that fact to buyers.
These acts constituted unconscionable acts and practices in violation of the CSPA where the scammer entered into consumer transactions while knowing of the inability of the consumers to receive substantial benefits from the subject of the consumer transactions. The Court found him liable for the scam and ordered him to pay $3,200 in consumer restitution and $50,000 in civil penalties.
The Craigslist scam has since been added to the Ohio Public Inspection File (“PIF”) database, located on the Ohio Attorney General’s website. The searchable Public Inspection File contains decisions from Ohio courts establishing those acts or practices deemed to violate Ohio’s consumer protection laws. While the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act (Ohio Revised Code Chapter 1345) prohibits unfair, deceptive or unconscionable acts by suppliers, the statute does not identify every prohibited practice. Such determinations are often left to the courts.
The CSPA allows for enhanced damages to be assessed against a supplier for a violation that has been previously addressed in an administrative rule or by any Ohio court if the Attorney General’s Office has that decision available in its Public Inspection File. In such a case, a consumer may recover three times the amount of actual damages or $200, whichever is greater.
If you have been the victim of this type of scam, or think you may have been involved in a consumer transaction that violated the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act, call Doucet & Associates. We specialize in consumer defense and may be able to assist you in protecting and asserting your rights.