When a consumer spends money on a product, he or she expects to receive the product as it was represented by the seller. Although this expectation is entirely reasonable, it is defied all too often. Some of the more recent examples include “toning” shoes that don’t actually tone and “all natural” snacks that contain not-so-natural ingredients. Fortunately, consumer protection laws go a long way to prevent these types of incidents from occurring.
Missouri’s consumer protection law, called the Merchandising Practices Act (“MPA”), prohibits sellers from engaging in behavior that is unfair, fraudulent, or otherwise dishonest to advertise or sell merchandise. Thus, a seller violates the MPA by making a claim about a product that is later shown to be untrue, regardless of whether that seller actually intended to deceive the consumer.
Consumers who have been harmed as a result of a seller’s violation of the MPA may be entitled to bring a civil action against the seller to recover the damages incurred. Additionally, in certain situations, the MPA authorizes class action lawsuits against sellers who violate the statute. Class action lawsuits make it financially possible for consumers who have been harmed but whose monetary damages are relatively low to bring a civil action against the seller.
A consumer’s expectation that he or she will receive the product as represented is not only reasonable – it is legally protected. When that expectation is violated, an attorney with experience in consumer fraud cases can assist in determining if a cause of action exists against the seller.