Unfair or Deceptive Business Practices Bring Georgia Consumer Protection Litigation

The State of Georgia is a strong proponent of consumer protection and has enacted the Fair Business Practices Act, or FBPA, to protect the public from deceptive and unfair business practices through sales, leases or rental of goods or services. The FBPA works to protect the public interest with consumer transactions that are involved with personal, family or household purposes.

Official Code of Georgia Fair Business Practices Act

The Official Code of Georgia provides a strong legal foundation listing examples to the variety of ways the Georgia Fair Business Practices Act provides consumer protection. Some of the examples of unfair or deceptive acts or practices in consumer transactions that are deemed unlawful under Georgia law include:

  • Passing off the goods or services provided as those of another; this could include fraudulently selling artwork by a rising artist, or performing remodeling work using the name of a respected local company
  • Purposefully causing confusion or misunderstanding related to the affiliation, connection or association with another person or business; in other words having you believe that they are certified or that they share a business relationship with a person who may be held in high regard.
  • Causing a consumer to be confused and to purposefully phrase information in such a way to make an Atlanta consumer misunderstand just where a specific product or service came from, what it was made of, or who it was made by. The Georgia Fair Business Practices Act takes a strong stand against this with specific consumer protection laws.
  • Another example that the Georgia Fair Business Practices Act deems to be unlawful revolves around published phone numbers or advertisements for Georgia goods or services. In Athens, a non-local business must clearly state in their telephone listing, advertisement, or even in a non-classified directory that goes out to a local community or service area that while they may have a local phone number the business is actually located in a non-local location.

If you feel you have been the victim of an unlawful business transaction or have purchased service goods or practices that violate Georgia Fair Business Practices Act, calling for a free confidential consultation with an Athens consumer protection lawyer is the first step toward compensation for the “wrong-doing.”

Georgia’s Office of Consumer Protection

Georgia Governors’ Office of Consumer Protection, or OCP, may become involved in cases where the Georgia Fair Business Practices Act is violated. The OCP keeps track of all claims and cases that directly relate to unlawful consumer transactions when there is evidence that there is substantial public interest involved. Retaining the services of an Atlanta consumer protection attorney, well experienced in the Fair Business Practices Act, as well as your local counties’ rules and regulations is essential in successfully representing your case within the court system.

Examples of Unlawful Business Practices

Other activities that are unlawful and prohibited by the Georgia Fair Business Practices Act include:

  • Selling goods as new when they are used items
  • Provide false or misleading information about another business or product in order to persuade the consumer to purchase their product or service
  • Advertising goods or services with either the intent not to sell them as advertised, such as in a “bait and switch” situation, or advertising knowingly not having enough of a product or service available unless the ad states that “quantities are limited.”
  • Purposely manipulating advertising or statements about sale prices, when the prices have not changed in the past month or more.
  • And in addition, selling goods or services that are supposed to be of a particular quality or grade by making false claims; for example selling jewelry that is made with 14K gold as having been made with 18K gold.

The Georgia Fair Business Practice’s Act also has specific provisions written into the law that specifically cover:

  • Health clubs, fitness centers, work-out facilities
  • Promotional contests and give-a-way promotions
  • Telemarketing fraud
  • Fraud that is committed over the internet, or network
  • Credit reporting companies and agencies
  • Price gouging during a declared state of emergency
  • Going out of business sales or events
  • Odometer tampering when selling or trading a vehicle
  • Vacation prize offerings in the mail, on-line, on the phone

Atlanta Consumer Protection Attorney

In addition to all the examples listed above, there are scores of other examples and situations that can be included under the Georgia Fair Business Practice’s Act. These unlawful breaches of public trust can be legally claimed under the complex and varied Georgia code and law.

Calling your Georgia consumer protection attorneys at Hurt, Stolz & Cromwell for a free consultation is the right move toward protecting your rights, assets, and financial security.

Avoid Auto Sale Fraud

Each year, thousands of people are victims of auto sale fraud in the United States. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center estimates that nearly 14,000 complaints were made from consumers that were victimized by online auto scams from 2008-2010 across the country. The total dollar amount added up to nearly $44.5 million in the same time period. And this number does not include those who fell victim to scams in person, either by a dealership or private individual.

Consumer Protection for Car Buyers

Buying a vehicle is an expensive transaction. When you add in financing, leasing, tax and title payments, down payments and trade-ins, it can become complicated quickly. Car salesmen want to make sure you feel like you are getting a good deal, but often that isn’t the case. If you feel like you have been the victim of an auto sale scam, contact the Atlanta consumer protection attorneys today.

Here are a few tips for avoiding auto sales fraud:

  • Each year, millions of automobiles are damaged in crashes and floods. While insurance companies may deem these vehicles totaled, they often being fixed and sold at auction. You do not want to unknowingly purchase a totaled vehicle. Be sure to get the car inspected by a mechanic and body shop before you purchase the vehicle. It’s also important to check out the vehicle ID number (VIN) and get a vehicle history report.
  • Avoid odometer fraud by comparing the odometer reading to the vehicle history report. You can also look at the maintenance and inspection records to see if the numbers make sense. If you have purchased a vehicle you believe has had the odometer tampered with, contact the Athens consumer protection attorneys at Hurt, Stolz & Cromwell, LLC today.
  • Most car salesmen want to complete the deal as soon as possible. If someone seems too pushy and it makes you uncomfortable, it’s may be because the person selling you the car is intending on committing auto sale fraud. Often, they want you to take care of the transaction as quickly as possible, so you don’t have time to think about it and back out. If you feel uneasy about a transaction, trust your instincts and make sure you get the vehicle checked out before moving forward.

Unfortunately, auto sale scams are common in Georgia. If you feel like you have been a victim of auto sale fraud it is important to have someone who will fight for your rights. Georgia law protects consumers and an experienced consumer protection attorney can navigate the complex legal system and work hard to get a favorable outcome in your case.

When a Landlord Violates Tenant Rights by Blockade, Consider a Premises Liability and Consumer Protection Lawsuit

Worst Athens Landlord Dispute of the Year?

Everyone may not be cut out to be a landlord, especially if weak anger management skills cause them to violate the rights of their tenants. Georgia landlord/tenant law clearly addresses all aspects of a rental arrangement and both sides have a responsibility to understand and comply with each requirement.

Tenants must pay rent in a timely manner, keep the premises in good order, and refrain from disruptive behavior and landlords must allow tenants access, the right to enjoy the use of the property, and maintain safe living conditions.

Landlords who attempt an illegal eviction face fines and penalties. Likewise, a landlord may not falsely imprison a tenant as Bogart residents 90 year old Frank Bundy and his two daughters, both in their 60s, did when they blocked their Athens tenant’s door, the only access into the unit, with an oversized tree stump and a log.

Regardless of the reason for the on-going dispute between the Bundy family and their 45 year old tenant, false imprisonment is a crime. Even worse, according to the Athens-Clarke County police officer as reported by onlineathens.com, doing so endangered lives during an emergency such as fire or gas leak, the officer was quoted as saying, especially since “there is no back door and some of the windows have metal bars across the lower pane.”

The dispute began back in February, when Mr. Bundy tried to unsuccessfully evict the tenant, who won $1200 in a countersuit. In early April, a tree stump was moved onto the property. A little less than a week later, Bundy attempted to board a window of the tenant’s Athens duplex, further restricting access. Six days after that, Mr. Bundy and his daughters used a car and chains to wedge the stump against the door of the unit and further bolstered it by chaining a large log to the stump, adding weight and impeding the possibility of shoving the stump aside. The police officer had to use straps attached to his vehicle to tow the blockade out of the way.

Illegal Eviction? False Imprisonment? Call on an Athens Premises Liability Attorney at Hurt, Stolz & Cromwell LLC for the Experience and Skill You Need for Settlement Recovery and Compensation

Mr. Bundy and his daughter didn’t just violate tenant rights. They created a dangerous environment. There are warrants out for the arrest of all three.

Hopefully, the Bundys will get out of the rental business and move on to more peaceful endeavors.But the tenant should discuss the case with a seasoned Athens premises liability attorney to discuss options for seeking compensatory damages for false imprisonment, violation of tenant rights, harassment, emotional distress, and pain and suffering if injuries were sustained.

Each landlord/tenant dispute is slightly different and most are settled amicably, but if a landlord oversteps the law, tenants should consult with an experienced Atlanta consumer protection lawyer at Hurt, Stolz & Cromwell LLC to explore all facets to your liability claim. Contact us today for a free, confidential, and sympathetic consultation.

A Consumer Protection Bill With Too Many Unknowns Rejected by the State House Banking Committee

Athens, Georgia Consumer Protection Attorney Jimmy Hurt Speaks to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Regarding HB 465

The state House banking committee’s decision to reject HB 465, a bill that would have permitted “for-profit” debt settlement companies to operate in our state under rules inconsistent with Georgia Debt Adjustment Act (GDAA) OCGA § 18-5-1 guidelines, was a win for Georgia consumers. In a recent interview with J. Scott Trubey of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC), our attorney Jimmy Hurt weighed in on the Committee’s decision, setting the record straight on the attempted debt settlement bill.

While debt management companies and their representatives try to establish themselves in Georgia by painting rosy pictures, it’s obvious that all that glitters is seldom gold. Debt settlement companies negotiate with creditors for debt reduction on the debtor’s behalf, in exchange for an agreement called a Debt Management Plan (DMP). The DMP establishes the amount to be repaid (the newly negotiated balance) to the debt settlement company at an agreed upon time period and payments. The debtor then pays into an account that is used to pay off the debt.

Unfortunately, company practices and failure to heed GDAA OCGA § 18-5-1 guidelines sometimes creates problems, including overcharges and/or slow payment to credit card companies. As explained to the AJC reporter, bankruptcy allows a debtor a fresh start whereas the track record of debt settlement companies is less than stellar and doesn’t offer typical bankruptcy protection from collection agencies, lawsuits, or garnishment of wages.

Opponents have long expressed concern over the high fees charged by debt settlement companies, including the “borrower education services” provision, allowing debt reduction companies to charge fees of up to $100. While supporters point to a stipulation that the first payment toward the debt must be completed before any fees are charged, they fail to set a cap on those fees, and since fees on other kinds of debt relief programs were capped in 2003, HB 465 would be at odds with existing law.

Has Your Georgia Debt Settlement Company Left You Worse Off Than When You Started? Contact an Atlanta Debt Adjustment Attorney to Fight Violations of the Georgia Debt Adjustment Act

Atlanta victims of consumer fraud should seek the advice of the debt collection defense attorneys at Hurt, Stolz and Cromwell LLC to be sure of the best and most accurate evaluation of their case. Debt management companies who violate the Georgia Debt Adjustment Act need to be stopped in their tracks so that others are not victimized and companies who are found guilty must refund all fees and charges, including fund contributions and, in some cases, pay restitution of up to $5,000.

We’re not out of the woods yet, though. HB 465 could be presented in the state Senate or, as is commonly done when less-than-popular legislation arises, attached to another piece of legislation.

In the meantime, consumers who have suffered because of mishandling and/or overcharging violations of the GDAA should contact an Atlanta debt adjustment attorney at Hurt, Stolz and Cromwell LLC to discuss whether filing a private legal action against a debt adjustment company is an option.