Under federal law, 15 U.S.C. § 45(a)(1), one who employs false or deceptive advertisements or other unfair consumer practices to deceive members of the public or to injure them may be subject to penalties and sanctions by the Federal Trade Commission. Virtually all states have similar consumer protection laws, which are known as unfair or deceptive trade practices acts.
In a number of states, consumers themselves may file lawsuits for unfair or deceptive trade practices. When lawyers engage in such unscrupulous consumer practices, they can be directly punished under these state and federal laws or sued by their own clients. Among the deceptive practices in which lawyers may run afoul of the law include any of the following:
- Making any statement or publishing any advertisement that is likely to cause confusion or misunderstanding as to the source, sponsorship, approval, or certification of legal services;
- Making any statement or publishing any advertisement that is likely to cause any confusion or misunderstanding as to affiliation, connection, or association with, or certification by, another;
- Using deceptive representations or designations of geographic origin services;
- Representing that services have sponsorship, approval, characteristics, benefits, or qualities that they do not have or that a person has a sponsorship, approval, status, affiliation, or connection that he or she does not have;
- Making false or misleading statements of fact concerning the reasons for, existence of, or amounts of the cost for certain legal services;
- Utilizing any method or scheme to obtain money or property from clients by knowingly false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises; or
- Selling, distributing, supplying, furnishing, or procuring any property for the purpose of furthering such scheme; and
- Mailing or causing to be sent an unsolicited billing statement, invoice, or other document that appears to obligate the consumer to make a payment for services for which he or she did not engage the attorney to perform, or for which the attorney was not retained.
Deceptive trade practices by attorneys may result in civil, administrative and criminal penalties for attorneys, as well as ethical and disciplinary proceedings that could affect their licenses to practice law. When it causes financial damages to their clients, it spells legal malpractice, and in such cases, the Law Offices of Mark S. Guralnick, stands ready, willing and able to provide assistance. If you have been a victim of an unfair or deceptive trade practice, please contact us for a case evaluation at 1-866-337-2900.