Envision having human feces spread across your hair and body while trying on a shirt at a clothing store. Imagine the urge of vomiting and nausea overcoming your body as you smelled the disgusting odor and fear you would obtain from such a gross experience. That is exactly what happened to our client when she slipped a shirt over her head at a TJ Maxx clothing store.
Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A. filed a lawsuit against a car dealership for allegedly selling a car with a different engine to our client without telling him. The dealership allegedly lied about the warranty the car was under too.
How to protect yourself when shopping online?
Considering the mass development of the internet and technology, many consumers find it convenient to do holiday shopping online. Shopping online can help save gas money, allows a consumer to easily compare prices, and can offer extra customization options for select products and services. Ohio consumers making purchases online are protected by the Consumer Sales Practices Act (CSPA), which is a series of regulations and rules the lawyers at Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A. have experience working with.
The CSPA protects consumers from misleading, unfair, and bad business practices. It makes the businesses recognize and honor all promises and warranties, and prevents them from taking advantage of consumers. In Ohio, lawsuits involving violations of the CSPA allow fee shifting. Therefore, if a business loses a lawsuit to a consumer, then the business may be required to pay all the attorney fees for the consumer.
Businesses who engage in online retailing are expected to comply with the CSPA. If a consumer purchases an item online but receives the wrong item in the mail, then the vender is required to correct the problem at no extra charge. Typically, online retailers will replace the item or refund the consumer. Details about resolving issues with online purchases are usually listed in the disclaimer or legal terms section of the order summary or receipt.
The Mail or Telephone Order Merchandise Rule protects all orders placed over the internet and protects consumers who never receive products purchased online. This rule requires online retailers to follow the 30-day rule and ship online orders to consumers with a reasonable time period of 30 days. If the online retailer cannot fulfill the 30-day rule, the retailer must ask permission from the consumer to ship an order late or refund their order.
Under the Fair Credit Billing Act, it is also illegal for a retailer to charge a consumer for an item that may have been shipped but was never delivered. Packages can be stolen, delivered to the wrong address, or misplaced. If the online retailer refuses to refund the consumer for an order that was never delivered, then the consumer may try to contact the charge card company they used to pay. The charge card company may be willing to refund the consumers money for the troublesome transaction.
Consumers shopping online should also take precautions when buying products from foreign companies located outside the United States. Prices may not be listed in U.S. dollars and consumers may get charged with a currency exchange fee. Shipping will be more expensive and most likely take longer too. If a consumer never receives a package shipping from another country, correcting the order will be extremely difficult. Most online retailers require consumers to correct the problem in the retailers’ local court. So, if the retailer is located in Japan, you may have to go to Japan to fix the problem.
Selling products and services online is a great way for retailers to market themselves to more consumers. Retailers can also sell items online that they may not have instore. Whether the retailer is selling products in a store or online, the retailer is expected to follow the regulations of the CSPA. The consumer lawyers at Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A. are experts at handling lawsuits involving the CSPA and can help consumers who have been misled and bullied by businesses during a transaction. Call us today at (614) 944-5219 for a consultation.
Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A. Attorneys Receive Rising Stars Honor
Attorneys Troy J. Doucet and Andrew Gerling are being recognized as a 2017 Ohio Rising Star by Super Lawyers. This honor is reserved for lawyers who exhibit excellence in practice. Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A. focuses on helping our clients fight foreclosure, consumer law, and small business litigation.
Troy Doucet established this law firm to help people fight against banks, mortgage companies, and debt collectors. He also wrote the foreclosure defense book 23 Legal Defenses to Foreclosure: How to Beat the Bank, trains new attorneys in consumer law, and has taught CLE courses for lawyers. Troy works hard to make sure that our clients get outstanding legal representation and is proud of the consumer-friendly case law this firm helps establish every day.
Andrew Gerling is a senior associate and litigator at Doucet & Associates. He has significant experience helping people in consumer protection lawsuits such as foreclosure defense, abusive debt collection, and consumer fraud. Andrew and Troy have great experience working with consumer matters that involve the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, Consumer Sales Protection Act, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, Truth in Lending Act, and the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
Troy Doucet and Andrew Gerling are honored to have received the 2017 Ohio Rising Stars Award for consumer law. The dedication the attorneys at Doucet & Associates give our clients has helped our law firm become one of the most recognized foreclosure defense and consumer law firms in Ohio.
Contact Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A. at (614)944-5219 for legal assistance with a foreclosure lawsuit or consumer protection matter.
Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A. Wins Lawsuit Against a Debt Collector
Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A. won a lawsuit against Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC for debt collection harassment and violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Our clients sought out our assistance after Portfolio continued to notify them about their debts after they had legal representation and failed to show proper verification.
In 2015, Student Legal Services, Inc. helped our clients by sending a letter asking for verification for some of the debts Portfolio notified them about. Under the FDCPA, a debt collector cannot contact a consumer without permission once they have a lawyer involved.
Portfolio responded by sending a letter directly to our clients verifying another debt, not the debts requested. Portfolio continued to contact our clients by mail and eventually phone about various debts. Portfolio violated the FDCPA by continuing to contact our client’s after they had legal representation.
Portfolio admitted liability through an offer of judgement and paid our clients $2,001 in statutory damages due to collection harassment and violations of the FDCPA. In Ohio, FDCPA lawsuits that create statutes are also violations for a Consumer Sales Practice Act (CSPA) lawsuit and both allow fee shifting. Therefore, Portfolio is required to pay Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A. reasonable attorney fees, rather than our client.
Best Buy Illegally Sold Recalled Products
Best Buy agreed to pay a $3.8 million fine for selling 16 recalled products from 2010 to 2015. It is illegal to sell a product after the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) labels it as a recall. The attorneys at Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A. help protect people by enforcing regulations under the CPSC.
The CPSC protects consumers from products with unreasonable risks associated with fire, electrical, chemical and mechanical hazards. The CPSC helped reduce the rate of injury and death associated with consumer products over the last few decades.
Best Buy failed to remove recalled items from store shelves and website and did not correctly inform their employees of recalled products. The recalled products did not accurately get identified in their employee cataloging systems. Products such as dehumidifiers, household appliances, computers, kitchen appliances, and televisions are only a few types of recalled technology sold.
A list of all recalled products illegally sold by Best Buy can be found on the CPSC website by clicking here. If you purchased one of these recalled items and received an injury from using it, contact the attorneys at Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A. for legal help. Call us at (614)944-5219 today.
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.
What you, as the Consumer, should know about vehicle repairs
Whether you have had to get your car fixed for minor issues, or needed a complete auto-repair, you have rights according to Ohio Law. The Ohio Administrative Code provides certain protections to consumers when it comes to getting their car serviced or repaired. The following are just some of the requirements under the code:
- Once you meet with the servicer in person, they must provide you with a form which indicates: (a) the date; (b) identity of the supplier; (c) your name and telephone number; (d) the reasonable anticipated completion date; and (e) if you requested, the anticipated cost of the repair or service. The form must also contain the following language:
- Estimate: You have the right to an estimate if the expected costs of repairs or services will be more than fifty dollars. Initial your choice:
____ written estimate
____ oral estimate
____ no estimate
- If you request a written or oral estimate, the servicer must provide you with the estimate before starting service or repair
- Your bill will not be higher than the estimate by more than 10% unless you approve a larger amount before repairs are finished.
- The servicer must obtain oral or written authorization from the consumer for the anticipated cost of any additional, unforeseen, but necessary repairs or services when the total cost of the repairs or services, if performed, will exceed fifty dollars.
- The servicer cannot represent that repairs or services are necessary if they are not.
- The servicer cannot fail to disclose to you prior to starting any service or repair, that any part of the repair or service will be performed by a person other than the services or his employees, if the servicer disclaims any warranty of the repair or service performed by that person. The servicer must also disclose the nature of the repair or service which that person will perform, and if requested by the consumer, the identity of that person.
Ohio courts have found that when a supplier has engaged in an act or practice declared to be deceptive by the code, the consumer has a choice of remedies, including rescinding the transaction, or recovering three times the amount of the consumer’s actual damages. In Grieselding v. Krischak, the Court of Appeals Sixth Circuit, affirmed the trial court’s award of $1612 in treble damages, plus interest and attorneys’ fees stemming from a mechanic’s failure to notify the consumer of repairs beyond the stated estimate.
These are just some of your rights as a consumer, among many. For more information see: O.A.C. 109:4-3-13, or call Doucet & Associates Co. LPA at (614) 944-5219.
If a Consumer Pays a Deposit as Part of a Consumer Transaction, the Supplier Must Have an Articulated Refund Policy
William and Joan Layne, consumers as that term is defined in the Consumer Sales Practices Act, R.C. §1345.01, et seq., entered into a consumer transaction with Tru-Built Homes, Inc., to build a detached garage on their property. The contract price of $7,196.00 was to be paid in three installments, with the first as a down payment at the time the contract was signed. The contract went on to guarantee that the supplier would: “fix, replace, or repair any part that goes wrong, that is our fault, because of poor workmanship or faulty materials for one full year at absolutely no cost to the consumer.”
The concrete garage floor that was poured by the contractor did not conform to the contract’s specifications in that it did not align with the house. The parties negotiated for several weeks, trying to resolve the non-conformity, without reaching an acceptable solution. Finally, it was agreed that the contractor would remove and re-pour the pad. A subcontractor started the task, but did not complete it. Finally, the Laynes terminated the contract relationship, and filed litigation alleging breach of contract and violations of the Consumer Sales Practices Act, R.C. §1345.01 et seq.
A jury awarded damages of $6,277.00 on the breach of contract claim, but the trial court ruled against plaintiffs on the CSPA claim. On appeal, the 2nd District reversed, finding that there was sufficient evidence in the record to find that the defendant had engaged in deceptive and unconscionable practices by accepting a deposit without articulating a refund policy, engaging in a pattern of inefficiency and incompetency, and failing to honor an express warranty, all of which have been held to violate the CSPA.
R.C. §1345.09(B) states that when a supplier in a consumer transaction has engaged in a deceptive or unconscionable act, a consumer is entitled to three times actual damages or $200, whichever is greater. On remand, the lower court did not separate the breach of contract damages previously found by the jury from the CSPA violations damages, as the appellate court clearly contemplated, and simply trebled the jury’s finding of $6,277.00, totaling $18,831.00, as plaintiffs’ actual damages. Defendants appealed again, and the appellate court agreed that damages were due and owing for the several CSPA violations but disagreed with the trial court’s basis for its finding of actual damages, so the court remanded that matter a second time for the trial court to re-examine each CSPA violation to fashion an appropriate damages award.
The 2nd District left alone the trial court’s award of attorney fees under the CSPA, reasoning that the supplier had knowingly committed the violation, which is enough to justify awarding attorney fees under R.C. §1345.09(F). Quoting from the Supreme Court decision in Einhorn v. Ford Motor Co., (1990) 48 Ohio St. 3d, 27, 30, the appellate court stated that knowingly committing an act or practice “ ‘means that the supplier need only intentionally do the act…The supplier does not have to know that his conduct violates the [CSPA]. ’ ” Id., at p. 6. The trial court had held a separate hearing on attorney fees following the first remand, finding that $18,329.70 was a reasonable amount for plaintiffs’ attorney fees in the pursuit of their CSPA claims.
Layne v. McGowen, 2nd Dist. Case No. 16400, November 14, 1997
PIF #10001592: Decision under Consumer Sales Practices Act, R.C. §1345.01, et seq.
Your Rights under the Prepaid Entertainment Contract Act
The Prepaid Entertainment Contract Act (PECA) provides protection to consumers who have entered into agreements for prepaid agreements for certain services. PECA covers a variety of contracts, ranging from Gym Memberships, Dance lessons, Martial Arts lessons, to online dating services.
In 2012, the Ohio Attorney General instituted an action against a Fitness Center for purported violations of PECA. The court in Ohio v. Riffle concluded that the Fitness Center violated PECA by, amongst other things, the following actions:
- Failing to provide consumers with proper notice of their right to cancel a prepaid entertainment contract as required by PECA
- Closing the fitness facilities and failing to provide refunds for the unused portions of the contract and failing to arrange for a substantially similar fitness facility located within 25 miles of the customers’ residences as required by PECA, which was also a violation of the Consumer Sales Protection Act (CSPA)
- Failing to honor cancellations made by consumers during PECA’s three-day mandatory cooling off window
- Failing to honor valid cancellations made due to a consumer’s disability that prevented the consumer’s enjoyment of the contract’s purpose as required by PECA
- Failing to honor cancellations made after consumers moved outside of a 25 mile radius of the facilities
- Failing to provide refunds to consumers within 10 days after valid cancellations of contracts as required by PECA
- Representing in the contract that certain services, such as childcare, would be available, and failing to provide such services
In Riffle, the Defendant was permanently enjoined from committing any unfair, deceptive, or unconscionable act or practice which violated the CSPA or PECA. The Defendant was further ordered to pay consumer damages and a civil penalty, as well as cease all pending collection actions against other consumers.
Doucet Sues Company That Helps the Elderly Sell Belongings
Doucet & Associates Co. LPA, a small law firm dedicated to helping consumers and those facing financial difficulty, filed a federal lawsuit against the company Caring Transitions for violations Ohio’s Consumer Sales Practices Act (CSPA), breach of contract, and fraudulent misrepresentation.
Caring Transitions manages senior relocation, downsizing and estate sales. The law firm’s client, a senior citizen, contracted with Caring Transitions to liquidate thousands of her belongings — including many valuable antiques – during a time of financial distress. The lawsuit alleges the company was to move the designated items from the property to its sales location, plus clean the property while the client was out of state caring for her disabled son.
The lawsuit alleges Caring Transitions violated Ohio’s Consumer Sales Practices Act (CSPA), which prohibits unfair and deceptive practices in consumer sales transactions, by claiming it had sold her possessions when it had not. The lawsuit alleges that the company told the client that she was entitled to only $276.80 after selling all her goods, which she estimates to be worth in the tens of thousands of dollars.The lawsuit also alleges the company failed to provide her a receipt of items allegedly sold and charged her thousands of dollars in moving and cleaning expenses.
Despite Caring Transitions representations it had sold all of her goods, the lawsuit alleges the client began to see her items listed for sale by the company online, and realized they had not been sold as claimed. The lawsuit alleges she tried to reclaim the unsold items and was told less than 10 were available for picking up.However, once she appeared at Caring Transitions showroom, she saw and retrieved 29 items. Meanwhile, her real estate agent informed her that her home was not cleaned as promised.
Because of lack of money generated from the sale of the client’s goods, she was unable to make her mortgage payments and her property entered foreclosure. The firm’s client is seeking relief of more than $75,000 for actual damages in addition to attorney’s fees and costs, plus punitive, emotional, economic and other damages.
Doucet & Associates is dedicated to fighting for the rights of consumers, protecting their interests and offering legal assistance to those who would otherwise be unable to afford it. If you need help with a company that is trying to take advantage of you or a loved one, call the firm today at (614) 944-5219.
Firm Sues DVD Lecture Company for Advertising Practices
Doucet & Associates Co. LPA, a law firm dedicated to helping consumers and those facing financial difficulty, filed a class lawsuit against The Teaching Company for violating the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act (CSPA) by practicing deceptive price advertising.
The Teaching Company, based in Chantily, Va., operates as The Great Courses, an online mail-order retailer selling DVDs or CDs recordings of lectures by university professors and high schools teachers. Doucet & Associates has filed on behalf of the plaintiff, as well as all other consumers in Ohio – expected to number in the thousands – who have done business with The Great Courses. Advertisements on their website, the Wall Street Journal, Vanity Fair magazine, and mailed catalogs claim that The Great Courses offers its products at a substantial discount for a limited time. However, the lawsuit alleges many of these advertisements do not feature an actual “regular” price. It further alleges when a “regular” price is quoted in the advertisement, it is an amount that is not made available to consumers. The lawsuit argues that The Great Courses has been selling its products at a “discount” that doesn’t actually exist, and the alleged “sales” it offers do not actually end, making the products always on “sale.”
The CSPA explicitly prohibits a company from falsely advertising that a price advantages exists, as does the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Guides Against Deceptive Pricing. The class action suit is seeking injunctive relief to prohibit The Great Courses from continuing its advertising practices in Ohio. In addition, the firm is seeking money damages for each of the consumers affected.
Doucet & Associates is dedicated to fighting for the rights of consumers, protecting their interests and offering legal assistance to those who would otherwise be unable to afford it. If you feel that a company is taking advantage of consumers, the law firm welcomes your call at (614) 944-5219.