California’s Unfair Competition Law, or UCL, protects consumers from any “unfair, unlawful, or fraudulent business act or practice and unfair, deceptive, untrue or misleading advertising.” Lawmakers in California have made great efforts to ensure consumers are protected from unethical companies.
California’s UCL goes beyond consumer protection situations, and can also apply to certain business disputes and allegations of commercial fraud.
Business Disputes and California’s Unfair Competition Law
Laws in California allow private plaintiffs to seek remedies for actions that violate the UCL; however, in 2004 lawmakers amended the requirements for whom is actually allowed to bring these types of actions.
Once, any person acting on behalf of the general public could bring private claims. However, in 2004, plaintiffs were required to demonstrate an injury was the result of the unfair competition prior to submitting a claim under California’s UCL. Given that “persons” are defined by statute to include firms, partnerships and corporations, many businesses can still file private suits under the Unfair Competition Law as long as they can meet the revised injury and current requirements.
As for the unfair business practices governed by California’s UCL, a wide range of unfair or deceptive conduct is left open for interpretation. For example, a company that engages in pricing practices that effectively harms competition may be considered a violation of the UCL, even if the purpose of the pricing was not intended to injure competitors. However, this practice alone does not categorize the pricing practice as unfair.
Remedies for Unfair Competition Law
The remedies available in California’s UCL are generally equitable in nature, meaning damages are not recoverable. Consequently, companies that are successful in a UCL claim may only be entitled to injunctive relief or restitution. It is important to know that many UCL claims can be in conjunction with additional business litigation claims. For example, a company may pursue injunctive relief under the UCL while seeking damages under various business torts or contract claims.
California’s Unfair Competition Law is often complex and difficult to fully understand. Therefore, if you are a business owner who believes another company may have injured your business using unfair business practices, it is important to talk to an experienced unfair business practice attorney to learn more about your rights.