What You Need to Know About Pennsylvania’s Unfair Competition Laws
To protect an establishment’s integrity and prosperity, each state establishes regulations regarding trade and competition. Here’s everything you need to know about Pennsylvania’s unfair competition laws.
In Pennsylvania, businesses are protected by law from unfair methods of competition in the marketplace. An unfair competition claim by one company against another is a business tort, meaning the wrong done by one business towards another will lead to economic loss. Deception and other wrongful conduct are classified as misconduct in business.
Definition of Unfair Competition
Pennsylvania courts follow the definition of unfair competition stated in the Restatement of Torts (Third). Restatements are secondary sources set as basic principles of law in most jurisdictions by legal scholars. According to Pennsylvania law, unfair competition is when one business causes intentional harm to another’s commercial relations.
Intentional harm towards a business comes in the following forms:
- Deceptive marketing,
- Trademark infringement,
- Appropriation of other trade values (including trade secrets and right of publicity),
- Intentional interference with contractual or prospective contractual relations,
- Misappropriation of trade secrets,
- Breach of fiduciary duty,
- Unjust enrichment,
- Trade disparagement or defamation,
- Any other act or practice is an unfair method of competition.
The UTPCPL and The “Catch-All” Provision
The Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law (UTPCPL) is Pennsylvania’s consumer protection law designed to prevent unfair methods of competition in any trade or commerce. Trade and commerce are broadly defined as the advertising, offering or sale, sale or distribution of services or property that is tangible or intangible. The UTPCPL authorizes the Attorney General or District Attorney to take action against those who infringe this law. The catch-all provision of the UTPCPL states a business’s state of mind is irrelevant for a consumer to sustain a private cause of action.
Related: Pennsylvania Wage Deduction FAQs
Penalties for those who commit unfair trade or commerce practices include:
- Temporary injunction,
- Permanent injunction,
- Fines up to $1000 per violation or $3000 per violation if the victim is 60 years or older.
The court may award the victim triple the number of damages, attorney fees, and additional costs for those who suffer a significant loss of money or property.
Under the catch-all provision, businesses in a wide variety of industries are no longer exempt from unfair practices, such as,
- Automobile repair shops,
- Automobile retailers,
- Debt collection businesses,
- Electricity supply companies,
- Health insurance providers,
- Home construction contractors,
- Investment advisors,
- Insurance companies,
- Mortgage companies,
- Motorhome manufacturers,
- Nursing homes,
- Rental car companies,
- Title insurance companies,
- Tobacco manufacturers.
Who May File a Claim for Unfair Competition?
In Pennsylvania, private actions, attorney generals, district attorneys, and consumers/purchasers suffering monetary loss may file a claim against a business or organization who committed a deceptive act under the UTPCPL.
Common Consumer Scams
In an effort to protect consumers, all consumers must recognize common methods of fraudulent behavior.
The most common consumer scams include:
- Supplement and related “free trial” offers,
- Government grant and stimulus money offers,
- Robocalls (automated telephone advertisements),
- Lottery/sweepstakes scams,
- Job hunter scams,
- Internet-based work from home scams,
- Mortgage assistance scams,
- Shopping scams (a fake check is given for you to go spend),
- Overpayment scams (scammer writes a fake check for more than the amount due and asks you to wire the difference),