Consumer and Small Business Protection Act

The City Bar supports the Consumer and Small Business Protection Act (CSPA) (A.2495-A (AM Niou) / S.6414 (Sen. Comrie)). The CSPA would amend New York General Business Law § 349 (“GBL § 349”), which currently prohibits deceptive business acts and practices, to (1) expand conduct prohibited by the statute to include unfair and abusive business acts and practices; (2) eliminate the judicially imposed requirement of consumer-oriented conduct: (3) award reasonable attorney’s fees to a prevailing plaintiff; (4) define “person” broadly and codify current New York organizational and third-party standing; (5) permit class actions for actual, statutory and punitive damages; and (6) recognize standing for organizations that test products and services for compliance with GBL § 349. We support the CSPA because “time and again, lawyers practicing in this area see low-income individuals and small businesses sued for financial obligations resulting from unfair and abusive business conduct. By not broadly prohibiting [these] business practices, New York lags behind most states in protecting its consumers and small businesses.” Prohibitions in other states have been used to combat unfair terms in adhesion contracts, high-pressure sales tactics, charging unconscionable collection fees, and taking advantage of homeowners with poor credit.  In addition to protecting New York’s most marginalized communities, the CSPA will protect small business owners, who, like consumers, are sometimes preyed upon. This will help to ensure a fairer marketplace for businesses large and small. In particular, the CSPA will increase the ability of non-profit organizations to hold businesses accountable for making misleading marketing representations regarding animal welfare, something of increasing concern to consumers.