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Consumer Protection In Illinois

The Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act (commonly known as the "Consumer Fraud Act") was enacted to give consumers a remedy for wrongs committed against them in the marketplace. It was designed to address such typical problems as false advertising, odometer tampering on used motor vehicles, and sales fraud. The Act also serves as a deterrent to persons engaged in trade or commerce from engaging in such deceptive conduct.

The Act prohibits the use of any deception, fraud, false pretenses or promises, concealment, suppression, or omission of any fact that is material to a business dealing or transaction. Consumers may bring a claim under the Act even if they were not in fact misled, deceived, or even damaged by the wrongful conduct. This is a key advantage given to consumers. Before this Act was passed, consumers who had been wronged by these methods had to bring claims under a common-law theory of fraud that has much stricter standards for proving a claim.

What Is a Consumer?

The Act includes a number of definitions to make it clear under what circumstances it applies. A "consumer" is any person who purchases or contracts for the purchase of merchandise for his use or the use of a member of his household--in other words, you. This definition excludes persons who purchase or contract to purchase merchandise for resale in the ordinary course of their trade or business, which means that certain business-to-business transactions are not protected by the Act. A "person" is any natural person or his legal representative, partnership, corporation (in-state, out-of-state, or international), company, trust, business entity or association, and any agent, employee, salesperson, partner, officer, director, member, stockholder, associate, or trustee of such entities. The Act specifically excludes certain persons such as real estate brokers and insurance companies and their agents because their conduct is governed by separate laws regulating their specific industry.

What Is a Sale?

A "sale" includes any sale, offer for sale, or attempt to sell any merchandise for cash or on credit. Under the Act, the term "merchandise" includes more than the traditional definition of merchandise by encompassing any objects, wares, goods, commodities, intangibles, real estate, or services situated insideor outside the State of Illinois. "Trade" and "commerce" are defined as the advertising, offering for sale, sale or distribution of any services and any property, tangible or intangible, real, personal, or mixed, and any other article, commodity, or thing of value wherever situated, and includes any trade or commerce directly or indirectly affecting residents of Illinois.

Consumer Protections

The Consumer Fraud Act specifically protects consumers from questionable door-to-door sales. It gives consumers a "grace period" of three days during which time they can cancel a transaction made between the consumer and a seller who is physically present at the consumer's home that involves the sale of merchandise for $25 or more. The consumer must be informed of his right to cancel by including a statement of his right to cancel with a "Notice of Cancellation" form attached to the contract or receipt. If a consumer does cancel a transaction by completing the form within three business days, he will receive any payments, traded property, or checks within 10 business days. Likewise, the consumer has to return any goods delivered under the contract to the seller. However, the consumer need only make the goods available at his home. If the seller does not pick up the goods within 20 days of the date of the notice of cancellation, the consumer can keep the goods or get rid of them.

There are many other activities that are prohibited by the Act. For instance, the Act prohibits pyramid or chain sales schemes. The Act also prevents persons from offering to sell consumers records pertaining to the consumer that may be obtained at no cost or a nominal cost from a governmental agency or a consumer reporting agency, unless the consumer is informed of such availability in writing. The Act requires that persons offering to sell goods through a periodic payment plan clearly state the terms of the plan on any advertisement, display, price tag, or other descriptive material. The offer of free prizes, gifts, or other gratuitous material must include all significant terms and conditions of the offer that are clearly set out so that the offer will not be misunderstood.

The Act precludes lenders in real estate transactions from requiring that their borrowers obtain title insurance from a particular firm. It prevents utilities such as telephone companies and electric companies from changing your service without following very detailed procedures.

The Act specifically regulates the conduct of new and used car dealers. For example, it prohibits the use of coupons in the sale of motor vehicles and requires payment for the cost of repairs to a vehicle's power train components according to certain time and cost guidelines.

If you believe that you have a claim under the Consumer Fraud Act, you may contact an attorney and file a private cause of action or contact the Illinois Attorney General's office to report it. The Act provides for civil or criminal penalties, damages, reasonable attorney's fees, and costs under the right circumstances. To help protect the elderly, it has even stiffer penalties when a consumer over the age of 65 is involved.

This website is not intended to constitute legal advice or the provision of legal services. By posting and/or maintaining the website and its contents, Lucas Law does not intend to solicit business from clients located in states or jurisdictions outside of Illinois wherein Lucas Law or its individual attorney(s) are not licensed or authorized to practice law.

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