Below is the text of the Maryland Consumer Protection Act. You can jump right to the CPA statute here. We also provide a summary of the key Maryland cases under this law if you are a lawyer doing legal research.
Let’s first discuss the law and understand its history and purpose. The Consumer Protection Act (“CPA”), Commercial Law Art. Md. Ann. Code, §§ 13-101 et seq., was promulgated by the Maryland Assembly to set “minimum statewide standards for the protection of consumers across the State. . . ,” it is intended to be a “strong protective and preventive steps to investigate unlawful consumer practices, to assist the public in obtaining relief from these practices, and to prevent these practices from occurring in Maryland.”
What kinds of unlawful consumer practices is the CPA trying to protect Marylanders from with this Act? The CPA focuses on a wide range of products and services, encompassing the “sale, lease, rental, loan, or bailment of any consumer goods, consumer realty, or consumer services….”
Section 13-201 of the CPA establishes the Division of Consumer Protection in the Office of the Attorney General. The law empowers the Division to administer the Consumer Protection Act by giving it the power to investigate complaints and investigate allegations of unfair and deceptive trade practice. An administrative investigation pursuant to the CPA is initiated either after a consumer complaint or by the Division on its own initiative. But you don’t need to wait around for the Division to bring a CPA claim because the law allows for private causes of action.
There is no dispute that this law has done wonders for reining in Maryland businesses who are trying to take advantage of consumers. This law is a weapon for consumers who want to fight back.
§ 13-101. Definitions.
- In general.- In this title the following words have the meanings indicated.
- “Advertisement” means the publication, dissemination, or circulation of any oral or written matter, including labeling, which directly or indirectly tends to induce a person to enter into an obligation, sign a contract, or acquire title or interest in any merchandise, real property, intangibles, or service.
- “Advertisement” includes every device to disguise any form of business solicitation by using:
- A word such as “renewal”, “invoice”, “bill”, “statement”, or “reminder” to create an impression of an existing obligation if there is none; or
- Other language to mislead a person in relation to a proposed commercial transaction.
- “Consumer” means an actual or prospective purchaser, lessee, or recipient of consumer goods, consumer services, consumer realty, or consumer credit.
- “Consumer” includes:
- A co-obligor or surety for a consumer; or
- A licensee or recipient of computer information or computer programs under a consumer contract as defined in § 22-102 of this article.
- Consumer credit, debts, goods, realty, and services.- “Consumer credit”, “consumer debts”, “consumer goods”, “consumer realty”, and “consumer services” mean, respectively, credit, debts or obligations, goods, real property, and services which are primarily for personal, household, family, or agricultural purposes.
- Division.- “Division” means the Division of Consumer Protection of the Office of the Attorney General.
- Merchandise.- “Merchandise” means any commodity, object, wares, or goods.
- Merchant.- “Merchant” means a person who directly or indirectly either offers or makes available to consumers any consumer goods, consumer services, consumer realty, or consumer credit.
- Person.- “Person” includes an individual, corporation, business trust, statutory trust, estate, trust, partnership, association, two or more persons having a joint or common interest, or any other legal or commercial entity.
- Sale.- “Sale” includes any:
- Sale of or offer or attempt to sell merchandise, real property, or intangibles for cash or credit; or
- Service or offer for service which relates to any person, building, or equipment.
- Service.- “Service” means any:
- Building repair or improvement service [note: very commonly involved in these cases];
- Subprofessional service;
- Repair of a motor vehicle, home appliance, or other similar commodity; or
- Repair, installation, or other servicing of any plumbing, heating, electrical, or mechanical device.
- Unfair or deceptive trade practice.- [The term in the Act] “Unfair or deceptive trade practice” has the meaning stated in Subtitle 3 of this title. [Note: this list is not exhaustive, according to Maryland appellate courts.]
§ 13-101.1. Applicability of title to consumer contracts.
The provisions of this title apply to the subject matter of a consumer contract as defined in § 22-102 of this article in the same manner they apply to consumer goods and consumer services.[2000, ch. 11; ch. 61, § 6.]
§ 13-102. Declaration of findings and purpose.
- The General Assembly of Maryland finds that consumer protection is one of the major issues which confront all levels of government, and that there has been mounting concern over the increase of deceptive practices in connection with sales of merchandise, real property, and services and the extension of credit.
- The General Assembly recognizes that there are federal and State laws which offer protection in these areas, especially insofar as consumer credit practices are concerned, but it finds that existing laws are inadequate, poorly coordinated and not widely known or adequately enforced.
- The General Assembly of Maryland also finds, as a result of public hearings in some of the metropolitan counties during the 1973 interim, that improved enforcement procedures are necessary to help alleviate the growing problem of deceptive consumer practices and urges that favorable consideration be given to requests for increased budget allocation for increases in staff and other measures tending to improve the enforcement capabilities or increase the authority of the Division.
- It is the intention of this legislation to set certain minimum statewide standards for the protection of consumers across the State, and the General Assembly strongly urges that local subdivisions which have created consumer protection agencies at the local level encourage the function of these agencies at least to the minimum level set forth in the standards of this title.
- The General Assembly is concerned that public confidence in merchants offering goods, services, realty, and credit is being undermined, although the majority of business people operate with integrity and sincere regard for the consumer.
- The General Assembly concludes, therefore, that it should take strong protective and preventive steps to investigate unlawful consumer practices, to assist the public in obtaining relief from these practices, and to prevent these practices from occurring in Maryland. It is the purpose of this title to accomplish these ends and thereby maintain the health and welfare of the citizens of the State.
§ 13-103. Legislative intent; local provisions; enforcement.
- Intent.- This title is intended to provide minimum standards for the protection of consumers in
- Adoption of more stringent provisions.- A county, Baltimore City, municipality, or agency of either may adopt, within the scope of its authority, more stringent provisions not inconsistent with the provisions of this title.
- Enforcement.- The provisions of this title shall be enforced by each agency of the State within the scope of its authority.
§ 13-104. Exemptions.
This title does not apply to:
- The professional services of a certified public accountant, architect, clergyman, professional engineer, lawyer, veterinarian, insurance company authorized to do business in the State, insurance producer licensed by the State, Christian Science practitioner, land surveyor, property line surveyor, chiropractor, optometrist, physical therapist, podiatrist, real estate broker, associate real estate broker, or real estate salesperson, or medical or dental practitioner;
- A public service company, to the extent that the company’s services and operations are regulated by the Public Service Commission; or
- A television or radio broadcasting station or a publisher or printer of a newspaper, magazine, or other form of printed advertising who broadcasts, publishes, or prints an advertisement which violates this title, unless the station, publisher, or printer engages in an unfair or deceptive trade practice in the sale of its own goods or services or has knowledge that the advertising is in violation of this title.
§ 13-105. Construction.
This title shall be construed and applied liberally to promote its purpose. It is the intent of the General Assembly that in construing the term “unfair or deceptive trade practices”, due consideration and weight be given to the interpretations of § 5 (a) (1) of the Federal Trade Commission Act by the Federal Trade Commission and the federal courts.[An. Code 1957, art. 83, § 20A; 1975, ch. 49, § 3.]
Disclaimer: This page is provided for informational purposes. Please don’t rely on this code. There is no guarantee (or warranty, speaking of warranties) that this law is accurate or up-to-date.
Below are some of the key cases that have discussed and interpreted Maryland’s CPA:
- Scull v. Groover, Christie & Merritt, P.C., 635 Md. 112, 125, 76 A.3d 1186 (2013) (holding that HMO member, a Bethesda attorney, who has been billed by a provider for a covered service [balance billing, basically] does not have an implied private cause of action under the Consumer Protection Act )
- Washington Home Remodelers, Inc. v. Maryland Consumer Protection Division, 426 Md. 613, 630, 45 A.3d 20 (2012) (court hold in a home remodelers case that the CPA provides a nonexclusive list of unfair and deceptive trade practices and that the CPA is remedial legislation that is intended to be construed liberally in order to promote its purpose of providing a modicum of protection for the State’s consumers).
- Converge Servs. Grp., LLC v. Curran, 383 Md. 462,, 860 A.2d 871, (2004) (court noted that the law allows for an investigation from a complaint from any potential or actual violation of the CPA; thus, the Division may begin an investigation on any complaint, even one largely based on issues outside the CPA, if a potential violation of the CPA also occurred.
- Benik v. Hatcher, 358 Md. 507, 534, 750 A.2d 10 (2000) (found that the leasing of an unlicensed dwelling unit constitutes an unfair or deceptive act under Maryland’s Consumer Protection Act)
- State v. Andrews, 73 Md. App. 80, 533 A.2d 282 (1987), (the Court of Special Appeals held that the Division could issue a general restitution order even with without consumer testimony while affirming the closing of a spa/health club in Baltimore County on York Road).
- Golt v. Phillips, 308 Md. 1, 8, 517 A. 2d 328 (1986) (mandates of CPA “squarely apply” to housing rental agreements).
Hiring a Lawyer
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