Earlier this week, the Pennsylvania Coalition for Civil Justice Reform (PCCJR) opposed an effort in the state House to significantly increase the minimum award amount for violations of the Unfair Trade Practices Act/Consumer Protection Law. The proposal was brought forth in an amendment to H.B. 1594. The amendment would have raised the minimum amount that can be awarded from the current $100 to $500.
As noted in a memo sent to House members prior to floor debate, Pennsylvania’s Unfair Trade Practices Act/Consume Protection Law is already considered to be one the most generous consumer protection laws in the country. Current law provides for a six-year statute of limitations (one of the longest in the country) and also provides for treble damages at the whim of the court.
Increasing the minimum award amount to $500 would lead to more frivolous class action lawsuits – clogging Pennsylvania courts with cases serving the interest of plaintiffs’ attorneys at the expense of local businesses and their consumers. Under this proposed change, if a class action claim for tens of thousands of sales to tens of thousands of customers were brought, the damages awarded would increase exponentially. These frivolous class action lawsuits provide a windfall pay day to lawyers with usually a minimal recovery to the class members while also increasing the cost of doing business in the Commonwealth.
The amendment was ultimately withdrawn during floor debate and did not receive a vote. House Bill 1594 unanimously passed the House and is now awaiting consideration in the Senate.