Revised provisions of the Indiana Deceptive Consumer Sales Act went into effect January 1, 2007. The revisions aren’t significant, but this Act is. It is designed to protect consumers from “deceptive and unconscionable sales acts.”
Some deceptive acts are specifically outlined in the Act, such as:
1. Falsely claiming that a consumer good:
A. has performance, characteristics, uses or benefits that it does not have;
B. meets a particular standard or has a quality, grade, or style that it does not have; or
C. is new when it is not;
D. needs repair or replacement when it does not.
2. Falsely claiming that a specific price advantage exists when it does not.
3. Falsely claiming that the seller is affiliated in a way that it is not.
4. Making false claims about a warranty.
5. Falsely stating that a consumer good can be delivered within a specific time.
6. Making repairs that exceeded the estimate by more than 10% and that also cost more than $750.
7. A necessary replacement or repair is made, and the repair shop disposes of the part repaired or replaced earlier than seventy-two (72) hours after both:
– the customer has been notified that the work has been completed; and
– the part repaired or replaced has been made available for examination upon the request of the customer.
8. Making unauthorized repairs.
9. Knowingly selling or reselling a consumer good to a consumer if the product has been recalled.
10. Advertising a consumer product that the advertiser has no intention of actually selling.
Acts done with an intent to defraud are automatic violations of the Act. Otherwise, the seller must be notified of the issue and given an opportunity to cure before the Act has been violated.
A consumer may file a lawsuit for any violation of the Act. Even where no damages were suffered, the consumer may collect $500 for the violation. A punitive award of no greater than $1,000 may be imposed for intentionally fraudulent acts. Interestingly, consumers over 65 years of age may recover treble damages for intentionally fraudulent acts. A prevailing plaintiff is entitled to an award of reasonable attorneys fees, so any reputable consumer lawyer will not charge consumers attorney’s fees for bringing a lawsuit under the Act.
For curable acts, notice must be provided to the seller within the earlier of one year after the sales transaction, six months of discovery of the deceptive act or the term of any warranty (but not less than 30 days). Any lawsuit must be brought within two years of the date of the deceptive act.
This Act is the primary weapon consumers have against unethical automobile dealers, and, thankfully, it does actually have some teeth!