Relief may be available for duped consumers in Virginia

Consumers often feel helpless when they fall victim to crooked merchants and businesses that prey upon the unsuspecting public. Regardless of whether consumers are scammed by false advertising or misrepresentations, many mistakenly believe that they have little recourse available if dodgy merchants refuse to rectify the problem. Victims of consumer fraud in Virginia need to know that relief may be available in situations such as these through Virginia's Consumer Protection Act.

Virginia Consumer Protection Act

The Consumer Protection Act in Virginia specifically enumerates several fraudulent actions that suppliers are not permitted to engage in. And while the term "suppliers" sounds specific, it is actually defined quite broadly under Virginia law; it includes not only manufacturers and distributors that advertise and sell goods or services, but also the actual sellers that advertise, solicit or engage in consumer transactions.

Even though Virginia law outlines many prohibited actions by suppliers, some of the more common types of unlawful consumer fraud specifically delineated by statute include:

  • Advertising goods or services with intent not to sell them as advertised, or with intent not to sell at the price or upon the terms advertised.
  • Misrepresenting goods or services as those of another.
  • Misrepresenting the source, sponsorship, certification of goods and services.
  • Misrepresenting the affiliation, connection, or association of the supplier, or of the goods or services, with another.
  • Misrepresenting geographic origin in connection with goods or services.
  • Misrepresenting that goods or services have certain quantities, characteristics, ingredients, uses, or benefits.
  • Misrepresenting that goods or services are of a particular standard, quality, grade, style, or model.

If a court determines that a supplier willfully engages in these types of banned activities, they can fine up to $2,500 for each violation. However, individual victims are also permitted under Virginia law to bring suit against a supplier if they can prove they have suffered a loss due to the fraud perpetrated by the supplier.

The damages available to individual victims include actual damages, or $500, whichever is greater. Plus, if the victim can prove the fraud was willful on the part of the supplier, damages can increase to three times the actual damages, or $1000, whichever is greater.

As this article illustrates, the law surrounding consumer fraud can be quite complex in Virginia. Accordingly, if you have found yourself the victim of consumer fraud, it is often advisable to seek the counsel of an experienced consumer fraud attorney to be advised of your rights and options given your circumstances.