Are you a business-owner seeking clarity on the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act? This pivotal law, also known as the DTPA, is designed to protect consumers from fraud and deceptive business behaviors, while also providing clear guidelines for businesses to follow. If you’re a business-owner trying to operate legally, understanding the DTPA is crucial. This article will guide you through the act’s key elements, including what practices are prohibited, the damages you may have to pay if found liable for an infraction, and actionable steps for complying with and defending against the DTPA.

Key Takeaways

  • The Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA) provides a comprehensive framework to protect consumers from deceptive business practices, with certain exemptions for specific types of transactions and exclusions for larger entities defined by asset size.
  • The DTPA includes a laundry list of prohibited acts, defines who qualifies as a consumer, and imposes a two-year statute of limitations from the time a deceptive act is discovered or should have been discovered for filing a claim.
  • Remedies available under the DTPA include the recovery of economic damages, the possibility of obtaining triple damages for intentional deception, and preventative measures for businesses to maintain compliance and prevent violations.

Navigating the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA)

Navigating the labyrinth of the legal world may seem daunting, but Davis Business Law can help explain the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA). The DTPA, established to shield consumers from misleading business practices and breaches of warranty, focuses on transactions related to goods or services.

The remedies under the DTPA are non-exclusive, allowing consumers to seek additional remedies under other laws. For businesses, it’s vital to be aware of and understand the DTPA to steer clear of potential legal troubles. Compliance goes beyond merely dodging penalties; it’s a cornerstone of establishing a trustworthy brand and nurturing enduring customer relationships.

Key Provisions of the Texas DTPA

With terms such as consumer, prohibited acts, and statute of limitations, the DTPA has specific statutory definitions that create a comprehensive framework for understanding its scope and application.

Defining a DTPA “Consumer”

Initially, it’s important to define who qualifies as a ‘consumer’ under the DTPA. The act takes an expansive view, including:

  • individuals;
  • partnerships;
  • corporations; and
  • state entities or their agencies.

Nevertheless, not every business entity fits the ‘consumer’ label. Businesses with assets of $25 million or more, or those owned or controlled by a corporation with assets of that amount, are excluded from the DTPA’s definition of a “consumer.” But many small businesses, if buying goods or services, will themselves fall into the covered definition of a “consumer.”

The DTPA’s definition of a “consumer” refers to someone who seeks or acquires goods or services by purchase or lease, including services furnished in connection with the sale or repair of goods. This encompasses a broad spectrum of transactions, including business activities such as:

  • Buying a product from a store;
  • A business buying materials from a supplier;
  • Hiring a contractor for home or business repairs;
  • Getting a service provided by a business.

Understanding the “Laundry List” of Prohibited Acts

The DTPA lists a multitude of prohibited acts, offering businesses a thorough guide on practices to avoid. This list classifies prohibited practices into four key categories:

  1. Breach of warranties;
  2. Violations of the Texas Insurance Code;
  3. Unconscionable acts; and
  4. Specific false, misleading, or deceptive acts.

A look at the specifics reveals that Section 17.46 of the Texas Business and Commerce Code bans a broad array of acts. These include passing off goods or services of one as another’s, causing confusion over their source, and misrepresenting the characteristics or benefits.

Some common examples of deceptive business practices, which can also be considered as deceptive trade practice, include false or misleading representation and false or misleading statements, such as:

  • False statements about price reductions;
  • Misrepresentation of agreement terms;
  • Falsely claiming a need for parts, replacement, or repair services;
  • Advertising with no intent to sell as advertised;
  • Not supplying reasonable public demand as claimed; and
  • Falsely disparaging another’s goods or services.

Other serious violations include engagement in pyramid promotional schemes and the misrepresentation of work or services performed, both of which are illegal under the DTPA.

The Statute of Limitations for DTPA Claims

Like any legal claim, DTPA claims must be brought within a timeframe set in its statute of limitations. Specifically, any action under the act must be initiated within two years after the occurrence of the false, misleading, or deceptive act or practice, or after the consumer becomes aware or should have been aware of it. This limitation period ensures that claims are brought in a timely manner, preventing potential abuse of the legal system.

The clock starts ticking at the point of ‘accrual’ of the claim, which is when a person first has the right to sue. However, this may not be the same date as when the deceptive act occurred. This distinction is important, as it recognizes that consumers may not immediately realize that they have been subjected to a deceptive act.

Nonetheless, the DTPA offers some leeway, permitting the statute of limitations to be tolled or extended under certain circumstances. For instance, tolling may occur if the consumer could not have reasonably discovered the misleading act or practice earlier. This provision ensures that consumers are not unfairly disadvantaged by the limitations period, particularly in cases where deceptive acts might be concealed or not immediately apparent.

Legal Remedies Available to Victims of Deceptive Trade Practices

Economic Damages

Economic damages are one of the DTPA’s primary remedies and are intended to provide compensatory damages for actual monetary loss. Specifically, financial losses that can be claimed under the DTPA include costs related to the repair or replacement of goods due to deceptive acts by the seller, as well as other monetary losses. This ensures that consumers can be made whole by compensating them for the actual, tangible losses they have suffered.

To pursue economic damages, an aggrieved consumer must provide a detailed notice to the offending business that includes the economic damages sought, any claims for special damages, and attorney’s fees. This notice requirement ensures that businesses are given a fair opportunity to rectify their wrongs before a lawsuit is filed, promoting efficient dispute resolution.

When Triple Damages Apply

Consumers might be entitled to seek triple their amount of actual damages under the DTPA, if they can prove intentional deception. This penalty is designed to punish and deter businesses from engaging in deceptive practices to a grossly unfair degree. To qualify for triple damages, plaintiffs must demonstrate that the defendant knowingly deceived them.

Steps to Filing a DTPA Claim

Once a consumer opts to pursue a Deceptive Trade Practices Act Texas claim, they must follow certain steps. The process begins with providing a written notice to the offending business at least 60 days before filing a lawsuit, detailing the complaint and specifying the alleged violations of 17.46(b) of the Texas Business and Commerce Act. It is recommended that this notice be sent by certified mail to ensure there’s a record of it being sent and received. The Act tries to put efficient and economical procedures in place to deal with claims before they become lawsuits.

Failure to provide the required notice can lead to a 60-day abatement, during which the plaintiff must give a detailed notice of the specific complaint and potential damages. If the plaintiff fails to do this, the lawsuit may be dismissed. This requirement emphasizes the importance of providing proper notice, ensuring that businesses are given a fair opportunity to rectify their wrongs before a lawsuit is filed.

Even if the defendant does not claim the notice, the case may proceed if evidence shows the defendant was actually aware of the claim. This provision ensures that defendants cannot evade lawsuits simply by refusing to claim the notice.

Identifying Common DTPA Violations and How Businesses Can Prevent Them

While the DTPA lists numerous deceptive practices, certain violations occur more frequently than others. These include:

  • False representation of products or services
  • Claiming an association, sponsorship, or approval that does not exist
  • Misrepresentations in the sale of motor vehicles, such as lying about a business going out of business or tampering with odometers.

Deceptive advertising through false statements about products and ‘bait and switch’ scams are also frequent violations under the DTPA. Moreover, deceptive pricing tactics like inflating the perceived savings on a sale item are considered violations of the DTPA.

In times of disaster, charging an exorbitant or excessive price for necessities is a violation under the DTPA, addressing the need to prevent exploiting consumers during vulnerable times. Furthermore, the DTPA allows for legal action in cases where there is a breach of express or implied warranty, including when known defects are not disclosed to consumers.

For businesses, recognizing these common DTPA violations forms the initial step in preventing them. With this knowledge, businesses can ensure their practices remain compliant, keeping your business safer from potentially catastrophic penalties and consequences.

Preventative Measures Against Deceptive Trade Practices

Preventing DTPA violations need not be an intricate task. Equipped with a firm grasp of the Act’s provisions, your business can take proactive measures to maintain compliance. These preventative measures can include efficient and economical procedures, such as:

  • Learning what constitutes deceptive practices;
  • Adopting transparent and accurate communication practices;
  • Regularly reviewing business processes for potential violations;
  • Ensuring your advertising and marketing materials are accurate and transparent;
  • Tailoring your practices in line with the Act’s requirements; and
  • Cultivating a company culture that prioritizes consumer rights.

Regularly reviewing your business practices for deceptive trade practices, particularly with an experienced business attorney, can help your company identify potential issues before they escalate into violations. This review should involve regular audits of advertising materials, sales practices, and customer service procedures to ensure they meet the DTPA’s standards. A business attorney can also help you train your employees to ensure they understand the DTPA and do not commit and deceptive business practices.


From understanding the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act’s provisions to identifying common violations and taking preventative measures, businesses can navigate the law successfully, staying compliant and reducing the chance of financial penalties. In a world where consumer trust can make or break a business, and where government is always keeping an eye on businesses, understanding and adhering to the DTPA is not just a legal requirement, but a strategic business move.