Section 17.44 of the Texas Business and Commerce Code protects consumers against false, misleading, or deceptive business practices, unconscionable actions, breaches of warranty, and violations of the Insurance Code. The term, "consumer" may make you think of someone who is purchasing a car or buying an iPhone. However, in the context of the DTPA, this term is much broader than what we may typically think. In fact, under the DTPA, to be a consumer, you don't have to purchase anything at all.
The DTPA provides the following definition of a consumer: "Consumer" means an individual, partnership, corporation, this state, or a subdivision or agency of this state who seeks or acquires by purchase or lease, any goods or services, and those goods or services form the basis of the complaint.
Let's break this definition down. First, to be a consumer, you don't have to be a person. A business can also be a consumer. A "business consumer" is defined as an entity that seeks or acquires by purchase or lease, goods or services for commercial or business use. There is one exclusion for business, however. If the business has assets of $25 million or more, or is owned by an entity with assets of $25 million or more, the business is not a consumer under the DTPA.
Second, the be a consumer, you don't actually have to purchase anything. You can qualify as a consumer if you lease a good or service or if you are simply looking to purchase or lease. For example, if you go to a gym, inquiring about membership, and you are lied to by staff about gym services, this can be enough to be a consumer under the DTPA.
Third, consumer status can be achieved with both goods and services. "Good," typically means tangible, movable property like that car or iPhone we talked about earlier. However, under the DTPA, this term also includes real property like your home. In fact, many DTPA cases deal with deceptive home sales such as if you are lied to about the square footage of the home you are buying. "Services" can include anything from getting a security system installed to getting your AC unit fixed to going to dance classes at a dance studio.
Finally, the last requirement requires that the goods or services must "form the basis of the complaint." This element is quite easy to satisfy. All it means is that the goods or services at issue must be what you are complaining about in the lawsuit.
At Reich & Binstock, our knowledgeable lawyers can help you understand the specific requirements stipulated by the DTPA. If you believe you may have a DTPA case, contact our lawyers for a free and confidential case evaluation. Call 713-352-7883 or 877-643-3099 toll free or complete the contact form on this website.
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