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Unfair Competition

California Business & Professions Code Section 17200 (“Unfair Competition”) Law.  Car, Truck, Boat & RV fraud.

Our firm is a business & civil litigation law firm.  We can help you resolve unfair competition claims that impact your business and harm consumers under California law.

Section 17200 includes five definitions of unfair competition:

(1) an unlawful business act or practice;

(2) an unfair business act or practice;

(3) a fraudulent business act or practice;

(4) unfair, deceptive, untrue or misleading advertising; and

(5) any act prohibited by Sections 17500-17577.5 (false advertising).

To state a claim for false advertising, the plaintiff must show that (1) the statements in the advertising are untrue or misleading and (2) the defendants knew, or by the exercise of reasonable care should have known, that the statements were untrue or misleading. People v. Lynam, 253 Cal.App.2d 959, 965 (1967).  There are a wide variety of types of cases litigated using either the CLRA or 17200 as the main causes of action.

Some common examples of unfair business practices

This is just a short list.  There are an unlimited number of ways a company can violate the California UCL.

A close look at California case law interpreting section 17200

“The UCL prohibits acts of “unfair competition” including actions that are unlawful, unfair, and fraudulent. Cal. Bus. & Prof.Code § 17200. The “unlawful” prong of the UCL “borrows violations of other laws and treats them as independently actionable.” See Daugherty v. Am. Honda Motor Co., Inc., 144 Cal.App.4th 824, 837, 51 Cal.Rptr.3d 118 (2006).  As for the “unfair” prong, “California appellate courts disagree on how to define an ‘unfair’ act or practice in the context of a UCL consumer action.” Morgan v. Wallaby Yogurt Co., Inc., No. 13–CV–00296–WHO, 2014 WL 1017879,  (N.D.Cal. March 13, 2014) (citing Davis v. Ford Motor Credit Co., 179 Cal.App.4th 581, 594, 101 Cal.Rptr.3d 697 (2009)).  Some courts have held that the “unfair” prong requires alleging a practice that “offends an established public policy or is immoral, unethical, oppressive, unscrupulous or substantially injurious to consumers,” and the policy must be “tethered to specific constitutional, statutory or regulatory provision.” Bardin v. Daimlerchrysler Corp., 136 Cal.App.4th 1255, 1263, 1266, 39 Cal.Rptr.3d 634 (2006) (citations omitted).

Other courts have held that the court must apply a balancing test that “weighs the utility of the defendant’s conduct against the gravity of the harm to the alleged victim.” Schnall v. Hertz Corp., 78 Cal.App.4th 1144, 1167, 93 Cal.Rptr.2d 439 (2000).  The “fraudulent” prong of the UCL “requires a showing [that] members of the public are likely to be deceived.” Wang v. Massey Chevrolet, 97 Cal.App.4th 856, 871, 118 Cal.Rptr.2d 770 (2002).  Rule 9(b)’s particularity requirement applies to each of the three prongs of the UCL (“unlawful,” “unfair,” and “fraudulent”) where, as here, the claims are based on a “unified course of fraudulent conduct.” Kearns v. Ford Motor Co., 567 F.3d 1120, 1126–27 (9th Cir.2009); In re Facebook PPC Adver. Litig., Nos. 09–CV–03043–JF, 09–CV–03519–JF, 09–CV–03430–JF, 2010 WL 3341062,  (N.D.Cal. Aug. 25, 2010).

To meet Rule 9(b)’s heightened standard, a plaintiff must allege with specificity that purported misrepresentations:
(1) were relied on by Plaintiff;
(2) were material;
(3) influenced Plaintiff’s decision to purchase eBay’s product; and
(4) were likely to deceive members of the public. In re Apple In–App Purchase Litig., 855 F.Supp.2d 1030, 1041 (N.D.Cal.2012) (citation omitted).

Furthermore, as discussed supra, the phrase “as a result of” in UCL section 17204 “imposes an actual reliance requirement on plaintiffs prosecuting a private enforcement action under the UCL’s fraud prong.” Tobacco II, 46 Cal.4th at 326, 93 Cal.Rptr.3d 559, 207 P.3d 20.  This also applies under the UCL’s “unlawful” and “unfair” prong, where the predicate unlawfulness is misrepresentation and deception. Hale v. Sharp Healthcare, 183 Cal.App.4th 1373, 1385, 108 Cal.Rptr.3d 669 (2010).

These foregoing points were pulled from the case of Rosado v. eBay Inc., No. 5:12-CV-04005-EJD, 2014 WL 2945774, (N.D. Cal. June 30, 2014) which dealt with a lawsuit against eBay.

Remedies under Cal. B & P 17200

1. California Business & Professions Code Section 17203 allows the court to order injunctions to stop acts of unfair competition.

2. Restitution / recovery of fees (ex. disgorgement of profits) or property acquired due to acts of unfair competition.  “Damages” is not awardable.

3.  California’s UCL law does not permit the recovery of punitive damages under California Civil Code section 3294.

What is the statute of limitations for a California Unfair Competition Claim?

Generally speaks, 4 years under  Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17208.  There may be arguments for tolling the statute of limitations under 17200 so consulting our firm to review your legal rights is critical.

Contact a California Litigation Law Firm

We represent litigants (both Plaintiff’s and Defendants) dealing with claims of unfair competition in California.  Contact one of our litigation attorneys for a free initial consultation at (877) 276-5084, or, fill out the form below to have a business & civil litigation attorney call you back. We handle cases throughout California and Arizona and have five offices to serve you. We offer contingency fee arrangements in some, but not all, consumer cases.  In other cases, a cease and desist letter through out ZipCounsel portal may be more appropriate.

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