Massachusetts Penalty for Failure to Follow Statute

Massachusetts Penalty for Failure to Follow Statute


PART I ADMINISTRATION OF THE GOVERNMENT
TITLE XV REGULATION OF TRADE
CHAPTER 93A REGULATION OF BUSINESS PRACTICES FOR CONSUMERS PROTECTION


Chapter 93A: REGULATION OF BUSINESS PRACTICES FOR CONSUMERS PROTECTION


Section 1 Definitions
Section 2 Unfair practices; legislative intent; rules and regulations
Section 3 Exempted transactions
Section 4 Actions by attorney general; notice; venue; injunctions
Section 5 Assurance of discontinuance of unlawful method or practice
Section 6 Examination of books and records; attendance of persons; notice
Section 7 Failure to appear or to comply with notice
Section 8 Habitual violation of injunctions
Section 9 Civil actions and remedies; class action; demand for relief; damages; costs; exhausting administrative remedies
Section 10 Notice to attorney general; injunction, prima facie evidence
Section 11 Persons engaged in business; actions for unfair trade practices; class actions; damages; injunction; costs

 

Section 1. The following words, as used in this chapter unless the text otherwise requires or a different meaning is specifically required, shall mean?

(a) ''Person'' shall include, where applicable, natural persons, corporations, trusts, partnerships, incorporated or unincorporated associations, and any other legal entity.

(b) ''Trade'' and ''commerce'' shall include the advertising, the offering for sale, rent or lease, the sale, rent, lease or distribution of any services and any property, tangible or intangible, real, personal or mixed, any security as defined in subparagraph (k) of section four hundred and one of chapter one hundred and ten A and any contract of sale of a commodity for future delivery, and any other article, commodity, or thing of value wherever situate, and shall include any trade or commerce directly or indirectly affecting the people of this commonwealth.

(c) ''Documentary material'' shall include the original or a copy of any book, record, report, memorandum, paper, communication, tabulation, map, chart, photograph, mechanical transcription, or other tangible document or recording, wherever situate.

(d) ''Examination of documentary material'', the inspection, study, or copying of any such material, and the taking of testimony under oath or acknowledgment in respect of any such documentary material.


Section 2. (a) Unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of any trade or commerce are hereby declared unlawful.

(b) It is the intent of the legislature that in construing paragraph (a) of this section in actions brought under sections four, nine and eleven, the courts will be guided by the interpretations given by the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Courts to section 5(a)(1) of the Federal Trade Commission Act (15 U.S.C. 45(a)(1)), as from time to time amended.

(c) The attorney general may make rules and regulations interpreting the provisions of subsection 2(a) of this chapter. Such rules and regulations shall not be inconsistent with the rules, regulations and decisions of the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Courts interpreting the provisions of 15 U.S.C. 45(a)(1) (The Federal Trade Commission Act), as from time to time amended.


Section 3. Nothing in this chapter shall apply to transactions or actions otherwise permitted under laws as administered by any regulatory board or officer acting under statutory authority of the commonwealth or of the United States.

For the purpose of this section, the burden of proving exemptions from the provisions of this chapter shall be upon the person claiming the exemptions.


Section 4. Whenever the attorney general has reason to believe that any person is using or is about to use any method, act, or practice declared by section two to be unlawful, and that proceedings would be in the public interest, he may bring an action in the name of the commonwealth against such person to restrain by temporary restraining order or preliminary or permanent injunction the use of such method, act or practice. The action may be brought in the superior court of the county in which such person resides or has his principal place of business, or the action may be brought in the superior court of Suffolk county with the consent of the parties or if the person has no place of business within the commonwealth. If more than one person is joined as a defendant, such action may be brought in the superior court of the county where any one defendant resides or has his principal place of business, or in Suffolk county. Said court may issue temporary restraining orders or preliminary or permanent injunctions and make such other orders or judgments as may be necessary to restore to any person who has suffered any ascertainable loss by reason of the use or employment of such unlawful method, act or practice any moneys or property, real or personal, which may have been acquired by means of such method, act, or practice. If the court finds that a person has employed any method, act or practice which he knew or should have known to be in violation of said section two, the court may require such person to pay to the commonwealth a civil penalty of not more than five thousand dollars for each such violation and also may require the said person to pay the reasonable costs of investigation and litigation of such violation, including reasonable attorneys' fees. If the court finds any method, act, or practice unlawful with regard to any security or any contract of sale of a commodity for future delivery as defined in section two, the court may issue such orders or judgments as may be necessary to restore any person who has suffered any ascertainable loss of any moneys or property, real or personal, or up to three but not less than two times that amount if the court finds that the use of the act or practice was a willful violation of said section two, a civil penalty to be paid to the commonwealth of not more than five thousand dollars for each such violation, and also may require said person to pay the reasonable costs of investigation and litigation of such violation, including reasonable attorneys fees.

At least five days prior to the commencement of any action brought under this section, except when a temporary restraining order is sought, the attorney general shall notify the person of his intended action, and give the person an opportunity to confer with the attorney general in person or by counsel or other representative as to the proposed action. Such notice shall be given the person by mail, postage prepaid, to his usual place of business, or if he has no usual place of business, to his last known address.

Any district attorney or law enforcement officer receiving notice of any alleged violation of this chapter or of any violation of an injunction or order issued in an action brought under this section shall immediately forward written notice of the same together with any information that he may have to the office of the attorney general.

Any person who violates the terms of an injunction or other order issued under this section shall forfeit and pay to the commonwealth a civil penalty of not more than ten thousand dollars for each violation. For the purposes of this section, the court issuing such an injunction or order shall retain jurisdiction, and the cause shall be continued, and in such case the attorney general acting in the name of the commonwealth may petition for recovery of such civil penalty.


Section 5. In any case where the attorney general has authority to institute an action or proceeding under section four, in lieu thereof he may accept an assurance of discontinuance of any method, act or practice in violation of this chapter from any person alleged to be engaged or to have been engaged in such method, act or practice. Such assurance may, among other terms, include a stipulation for the voluntary payment by such person of the costs of investigation, or of an amount to be held in escrow pending the outcome of an action or as restitution to aggrieved buyers, or both. Any such assurance of discontinuance shall be in writing and be filed with the superior court of Suffolk county. Matters thus closed may at any time be reopened by the attorney general for further proceedings in the public interest. Evidence of a violation of such assurance shall be prima facie evidence of a violation of section two in any subsequent proceeding brought by the attorney general.


Section 6. (1) The attorney general, whenever he believes a person has engaged in or is engaging in any method, act or practice declared to be unlawful by this chapter, may conduct an investigation to ascertain whether in fact such person has engaged in or is engaging in such method, act or practice. In conducting such investigation he may (a) take testimony under oath concerning such alleged unlawful method, act or practice; (b) examine or cause to be examined any documentary material of whatever nature relevant to such alleged unlawful method, act or practice; and (c) require attendance during such examination of documentary material of any person having knowledge of the documentary material and take testimony under oath or acknowledgment in respect of any such documentary material. Such testimony and examination shall take place in the county where such person resides or has a place of business or, if the parties consent or such person is a nonresident or has no place of business within the commonwealth, in Suffolk county.

(2) Notice of the time, place and cause of such taking of testimony, examination or attendance shall be given by the attorney general at least ten days prior to the date of such taking of testimony or examination.

(3) Service of any such notice may be made by (a) delivering a duly executed copy thereof to the person to be served or to a partner or to any officer or agent authorized by appointment or by law to receive service of process on behalf of such person; (b) delivering a duly executed copy thereof to the principal place of business in the commonwealth of the person to be served; or (c) mailing by registered or certified mail a duly executed copy thereof addressed to the person to be served at the principal place of business in the commonwealth or, if said person has no place of business in the commonwealth, to his principal office or place of business.

(4) Each such notice shall (a) state the time and place for the taking of testimony or the examination and the name and address of each person to be examined, if known, and, if the name is not known, a general description sufficient to identify him or the particular class or group to which he belongs; (b) state the statute and section thereof, the alleged violation of which is under investigation and the general subject matter of the investigation; (c) describe the class or classes of documentary material to be produced thereunder with reasonable specificity, so as fairly to indicate the material demanded; (d) prescribe a return date within which the documentary material is to be produced; and (e) identify the members of the attorney general's staff to whom such documentary material is to be made available for inspection and copying.

(5) No such notice shall contain any requirement which would be unreasonable or improper if contained in a subpoena duces tecum issued by a court of the commonwealth; or require the disclosure of any documentary material which would be privileged, or which for any other reason would not be required by a subpoena duces tecum issued by a court of the commonwealth.

(6) Any documentary material or other information produced by any person pursuant to this section shall not, unless otherwise ordered by a court of the commonwealth for good cause shown, be disclosed to any person other than the authorized agent or representative of the attorney general, unless with the consent of the person producing the same; provided, however, that such material or information may be disclosed by the attorney general in court pleadings or other papers filed in court.

(7) At any time prior to the date specified in the notice, or within twenty-one days after the notice has been served, whichever period is shorter, the court may, upon motion for good cause shown, extend such reporting date or modify or set aside such demand or grant a protective order in accordance with the standards set forth in Rule 26(c) of the Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure. The motion may be filed in the superior court of the county in which the person served resides or has his usual place of business, or in Suffolk county. This section shall not be applicable to any criminal proceeding nor shall information obtained under the authority of this section be admissible in evidence in any criminal prosecution for substantially identical transactions.


Section 7. A person upon whom a notice is served pursuant to the provisions of section six shall comply with the terms thereof unless otherwise provided by the order of a court of the commonwealth. Any person who fails to appear, or with intent to avoid, evade, or prevent compliance, in whole or in part, with any civil investigation under this chapter, removes from any place, conceals, withholds, or destroys, mutilates, alters, or by any other means falsifies any documentary material in the possession, custody or control of any person subject to any such notice, or knowingly conceals any relevant information, shall be assessed a civil penalty of not more than five thousand dollars.

The attorney general may file in the superior court of the county in which such person resides or has his principal place of business, or of Suffolk county if such person is a nonresident or has no principal place of business in the commonwealth, and serve upon such person, in the same manner as provided in section six, a petition for an order of such court for the enforcement of this section and section six. Any disobedience of any final order entered under this section by any court shall be punished as a contempt thereof.

Section 8. Upon petition by the attorney general, the court may for habitual violation of injunctions issued pursuant to section four order the dissolution, or suspension or forfeiture of franchise of any corporation or the right of any individual or foreign corporation to do business in the commonwealth.


Section 9. (1) Any person, other than a person entitled to bring action under section eleven of this chapter, who has been injured by another person's use or employment of any method, act or practice declared to be unlawful by section two or any rule or regulation issued thereunder or any person whose rights are affected by another person violating the provisions of clause (9) of section three of chapter one hundred and seventy-six D may bring an action in the superior court, or in the housing court as provided in section three of chapter one hundred and eighty-five C whether by way of original complaint, counterclaim, cross-claim or third party action, for damages and such equitable relief, including an injunction, as the court deems to be necessary and proper.

(2) Any persons entitled to bring such action may, if the use or employment of the unfair or deceptive act or practice has caused similar injury to numerous other persons similarly situated and if the court finds in a preliminary hearing that he adequately and fairly represents such other persons, bring the action on behalf of himself and such other similarly injured and situated persons; the court shall require that notice of such action be given to unnamed petitioners in the most effective practicable manner. Such action shall not be dismissed, settled or compromised without the approval of the court, and notice of any proposed dismissal, settlement or compromise shall be given to all members of the class of petitioners in such manner as the court directs.

(3) At least thirty days prior to the filing of any such action, a written demand for relief, identifying the claimant and reasonably describing the unfair or deceptive act or practice relied upon and the injury suffered, shall be mailed or delivered to any prospective respondent. Any person receiving such a demand for relief who, within thirty days of the mailing or delivery of the demand for relief, makes a written tender of settlement which is rejected by the claimant may, in any subsequent action, file the written tender and an affidavit concerning its rejection and thereby limit any recovery to the relief tendered if the court finds that the relief tendered was reasonable in relation to the injury actually suffered by the petitioner. In all other cases, if the court finds for the petitioner, recovery shall be in the amount of actual damages or twenty-five dollars, whichever is greater; or up to three but not less than two times such amount if the court finds that the use or employment of the act or practice was a willful or knowing violation of said section two or that the refusal to grant relief upon demand was made in bad faith with knowledge or reason to know that the act or practice complained of violated said section two. For the purposes of this chapter, the amount of actual damages to be multiplied by the court shall be the amount of the judgment on all claims arising out of the same and underlying transaction or occurrence, regardless of the existence or nonexistence of insurance coverage available in payment of the claim. In addition, the court shall award such other equitable relief, including an injunction, as it deems to be necessary and proper. The demand requirements of this paragraph shall not apply if the claim is asserted by way of counterclaim or cross-claim, or if the prospective respondent does not maintain a place of business or does not keep assets within the commonwealth, but such respondent may otherwise employ the provisions of this section by making a written offer of relief and paying the rejected tender into court as soon as practicable after receiving notice of an action commenced under this section. Notwithstanding any other provision to the contrary, if the court finds any method, act or practice unlawful with regard to any security or any contract of sale of a commodity for future delivery as defined in section two, and if the court finds for the petitioner, recovery shall be in the amount of actual damages.

(3A) A person may assert a claim under this section in a district court, whether by way of original complaint, counterclaim, cross-claim or third-party action, for money damages only. Said damages may include double or treble damages, attorneys' fees and costs, as herein provided. The demand requirements and provision for tender of offer of settlement provided in paragraph (3) shall also be applicable under this paragraph, except that no rights to equitable relief shall be created under this paragraph, nor shall a person asserting a claim hereunder be able to assert any claim on behalf of other similarly injured and situated persons as provided in paragraph (2).

(4) If the court finds in any action commenced hereunder that there has been a violation of section two, the petitioner shall, in addition to other relief provided for by this section and irrespective of the amount in controversy, be awarded reasonable attorney's fees and costs incurred in connection with said action; provided, however, the court shall deny recovery of attorney's fees and costs which are incurred after the rejection of a reasonable written offer of settlement made within thirty days of the mailing or delivery of the written demand for relief required by this section.

[There is no paragraph (5).]

(6) Any person entitled to bring an action under this section shall not be required to initiate, pursue or exhaust any remedy established by any regulation, administrative procedure, local, state or federal law or statute or the common law in order to bring an action under this section or to obtain injunctive relief or recover damages or attorney's fees or costs or other relief as provided in this section. Failure to exhaust administrative remedies shall not be a defense to any proceeding under this section, except as provided in paragraph seven.

(7) The court may upon motion by the respondent before the time for answering and after a hearing suspend proceedings brought under this section to permit the respondent to initiate action in which the petitioner shall be named a party before any appropriate regulatory board or officer providing adjudicatory hearings to complainants if the respondent's evidence indicates that:

(a) there is a substantial likelihood that final action by the court favorable to the petitioner would require of the respondent conduct or practices that would disrupt or be inconsistent with a regulatory scheme that regulates or covers the actions or transactions complained of by the petitioner established and administered under law by any state or federal regulatory board or officer acting under statutory authority of the commonwealth or of the United States; or

(b) that said regulatory board or officer has a substantial interest in reviewing said transactions or actions prior to judicial action under this chapter and that the said regulatory board or officer has the power to provide substantially the relief sought by the petitioner and the class, if any, which the petitioner represents, under this section.

Upon suspending proceedings under this section the court may enter any interlocutory or temporary orders it deems necessary and proper pending final action by the regulatory board or officer and trial, if any, in the court, including issuance of injunctions, certification of a class, and orders concerning the presentation of the matter to the regulatory board or officer. The court shall issue appropriate interlocutory orders, decrees and injunctions to preserve the status quo between the parties pending final action by the regulatory board or officer and trial and shall stay all proceedings in any court or before any regulatory board or officer in which petitioner and respondent are necessarily involved. The court may issue further orders, injunctions or other relief while the matter is before the regulatory board or officer and shall terminate the suspension and bring the matter forward for trial if it finds (a) that proceedings before the regulatory board or officer are unreasonably delayed or otherwise unreasonably prejudicial to the interests of a party before the court, or (b) that the regulatory board or officer has not taken final action within six months of the beginning of the order suspending proceedings under this chapter.

(8) Except as provided in section ten, recovering or failing to recover an award of damages or other relief in any administrative or judicial proceeding, except proceedings authorized by this section, by any person entitled to bring an action under this section, shall not constitute a bar to, or limitation upon relief authorized by this


Section 10. Upon commencement of any action brought under section nine or section eleven, the clerk of the court shall mail a copy of the bill in equity to the attorney general and, upon entry of any judgment or decree in the action, the clerk of the court shall mail a copy of such judgment or decree to the attorney general.

Any permanent injunction or order of the court made under section four shall be prima facie evidence in an action brought under section nine or section eleven that the respondent used or employed an unfair or deceptive act or practice declared unlawful by section two.


Section 11. Any person who engages in the conduct of any trade or commerce and who suffers any loss of money or property, real or personal, as a result of the use or employment by another person who engages in any trade or commerce of an unfair method of competition or an unfair or deceptive act or practice declared unlawful by section two or by any rule or regulation issued under paragraph (c) of section two may, as hereinafter provided, bring an action in the superior court, or in the housing court as provided in section three of chapter one hundred and eighty-five C, whether by way of original complaint, counterclaim, cross-claim or third-party action for damages and such equitable relief, including an injunction, as the court deems to be necessary and proper.

Such person, if he has not suffered any loss of money or property, may obtain such an injunction if it can be shown that the aforementioned unfair method of competition, act or practice may have the effect of causing such loss of money or property.

Any persons entitled to bring such action may, if the use or employment of the unfair method of competition or the unfair or deceptive act or practice has caused similar injury to numerous other persons similarly situated and if the court finds in a preliminary hearing that he adequately and fairly represents such other persons, bring the action on behalf of himself and such other similarly injured and situated persons; the court shall require that notice of such action be given to unnamed petitioners in the most effective, practicable manner. Such action shall not be dismissed, settled or compromised without the approval of the court, and notice of any proposed dismissal, settlement or compromise shall be given to all members of the class of petitioners in such a manner as the court directs.

A person may assert a claim under this section in a district court, whether by way of original complaint, counterclaim, cross-claim or third-party action, for money damages only. Said damages may include double or treble damages, attorneys' fees and costs, as hereinafter provided, with provision for tendering by the person against whom the claim is asserted of a written offer of settlement for single damages, also as hereinafter provided. No rights to equitable relief shall be created under this paragraph, nor shall a person asserting such claim be able to assert any claim on behalf of other similarly injured and situated persons as provided in the preceding paragraph. The provisions of sections ninety-five to one hundred and ten, inclusive, of chapter two hundred and thirty-one, where applicable, shall apply to a claim under this section, except that the provisions for remand, removal and transfer shall be controlled by the amount of single damages claimed hereunder.

If the court finds for the petitioner, recovery shall be in the amount of actual damages; or up to three, but not less than two, times such amount if the court finds that the use or employment of the method of competition or the act or practice was a willful or knowing violation of said section two. For the purposes of this chapter, the amount of actual damages to be multiplied by the court shall be the amount of the judgment on all claims arising out of the same and underlying transaction or occurrence regardless of the existence or nonexistence of insurance coverage available in payment of the claim. In addition, the court shall award such other equitable relief, including an injunction, as it deems to be necessary and proper. The respondent may tender with his answer in any such action a written offer of settlement for single damages. If such tender or settlement is rejected by the petitioner, and if the court finds that the relief tendered was reasonable in relation to the injury actually suffered by the petitioner, then the court shall not award more than single damages.

If the court finds in any action commenced hereunder, that there has been a violation of section two, the petitioner shall, in addition to other relief provided for by this section and irrespective of the amount in controversy, be awarded reasonable attorneys' fees and costs incurred in said action.

In any action brought under this section, in addition to the provisions of paragraph (b) of section two, the court shall also be guided in its interpretation of unfair methods of competition by those provisions of chapter ninety-three known as the Massachusetts Antitrust Act.

No action shall be brought or maintained under this section unless the actions and transactions constituting the alleged unfair method of competition or the unfair or deceptive act or practice occurred primarily and substantially within the commonwealth. For the purposes of this paragraph, the burden of proof shall be upon the person claiming that such transactions and actions did not occur primarily and substantially within the commonwealth.