California’s Consumers Legal Remedies Act (commonly referred to as the “CLRA”) is one of the most power and useful weapons at the disposal of consumers and consumer-law attorneys. The CLRA was enacted by the California legislature in 1970, in part based on the recommendations of the Kerner Commission, which had investigated the causes of Watts Riots in 1965. The Kerner Commission concluded that there was a real problem with unethical businesses charging unsophisticated consumers exorbitant prices for inferior goods, and this was the impetus for the rioters targeting of local businesses in the riots.
As a result, the CLRA contains powerful provisions intended both to outlaw unethical business practices and to make it economical for consumers to pursue legal redress for violations of the Act. The CLRA outlaws virtually every possible type of misrepresentation, and forces defendant companies that are found guilty of violating the CLRA to pay all of the attorney’s fees and costs of consumers in enforcing their legal rights. As a result, the CLRA is particularly useful in car dealer fraud cases, including lawsuits asserting that car dealers sold accident-damaged used cars, sold automobiles for more than their advertised prices, sold prior rental cars without disclosing the vehicles’ rental histories, sold so-called “certified” pre-owned vehicles that did not qualify for the “certified” designation, and many, many other types of fraud.
|Section 1751.||Waiver prohibited|
|Section 1752.||Remedies nonexclusive|
|Section 1754.||Transactions excluded|
|Section 1755.||Applicability to advertising media|
|Section 1756.||Applicability to pending legal actions|
|Section 1770.||Unlawful practices|
|Section 1780.||Action for damages and other relief; Additional remedy for senior citizens and disabled persons; Treble damages for charging unreasonable fee to assist applicant or recipient in securing public social services; Venue; Court costs and attorney’s fees|
|Section 1781.||Class actions|
|Section 1782.||Prerequisites to commencement of action|
|Section 1783.||Limitation of actions|
This title may be cited as the Consumers Legal Remedies Act.
Any waiver by a consumer of the provisions of this title is contrary to public policy and shall be unenforceable and void.
Section 1752. Remedies nonexclusive
The provisions of this title are not exclusive. The remedies provided herein for violation of any section of this title or for conduct proscribed by any section of this title shall be in addition to any other procedures or remedies for any violation or conduct provided for in any other law.
Nothing in this title shall limit any other statutory or any common law rights of the Attorney General or any other person to bring class actions. Class actions by consumers brought under the specific provisions of Chapter 3 (commencing with Section 1770) of this title shall be governed exclusively by the provisions of Chapter 4 (commencing with Section 1780); however, this shall not be construed so as to deprive a consumer of any statutory or common law right to bring a class action without resort to this title. If any act or practice proscribed under this title also constitutes a cause of action in common law or a violation of another statute, the consumer may assert such common law or statutory cause of action under the procedures and with the remedies provided for in such law.
Section 1753. Severability
If any provision of this title or the application thereof to any person or circumstance is held to be unconstitutional, the remainder of the title and the application of such provision to other persons or circumstances shall not be affected thereby.
Section 1754. Transactions excluded
The provisions of this title shall not apply to any transaction which provides for the construction, sale, or construction and sale of an entire residence or all or part of a structure designed for commercial or industrial occupancy, with or without a parcel of real property or an interest therein, or for the sale of a lot or parcel of real property, including any site preparation incidental to such sale.
Section 1755. Applicability to advertising media
Nothing in this title shall apply to the owners or employees of any advertising medium, including, but not limited to, newspapers, magazines, broadcast stations, billboards and transit ads, by whom any advertisement in violation of this title is published or disseminated, unless it is established that such owners or employees had knowledge of the deceptive methods, acts or practices declared to be unlawful by Section 1770.
The substantive and procedural provisions of this title shall only apply to actions filed on or after January 1, 1971.
Section 1760. Construction
This title shall be liberally construed and applied to promote its underlying purposes, which are to protect consumers against unfair and deceptive business practices and to provide efficient and economical procedures to secure such protection.
Section 1761. Definitions
As used in this title:
(a) “Goods” means tangible chattels bought or leased for use primarily for personal, family, or household purposes, including certificates or coupons exchangeable for these goods, and including goods that, at the time of the sale or subsequently, are to be so affixed to real property as to become a part of real property, whether or not they are severable from the real property.
(b) “Services” means work, labor, and services for other than a commercial or business use, including services furnished in connection with the sale or repair of goods.
(c) “Person” means an individual, partnership, corporation, limited liability company, association, or other group, however organized.
(d) “Consumer” means an individual who seeks or acquires, by purchase or lease, any goods or services for personal, family, or household purposes.
(e) “Transaction” means an agreement between a consumer and another person, whether or not the agreement is a contract enforceable by action, and includes the making of, and the performance pursuant to, that agreement.
(f) “Senior citizen” means a person who is 65 years of age or older.
(g) “Disabled person” means a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.
(1) As used in this subdivision, “physical or mental impairment” means any of the following:
(A) A physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss substantially affecting one or more of the following body systems: neurological; musculoskeletal; special sense organs; respiratory, including speech organs; cardiovascular; reproductive; digestive; genitourinary; hemic and lymphatic; skin; or endocrine.
(B) A mental or psychological disorder, including intellectual disability, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities. “Physical or mental impairment” includes, but is not limited to, diseases and conditions that include orthopedic, visual, speech, and hearing impairment, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, intellectual disability, and emotional illness.
(2) “Major life activities” means functions that include caring for one’s self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working.
(h) “Home solicitation” means a transaction made at the consumer’s primary residence, except those transactions initiated by the consumer. A consumer response to an advertisement is not a home solicitation.
Section 1770. Unlawful practices
(a) The following unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices undertaken by any person in a transaction intended to result or which results in the sale or lease of goods or services to any consumer are unlawful:
(1) Passing off goods or services as those of another.
(2) Misrepresenting the source, sponsorship, approval, or certification of goods or services.
(3) Misrepresenting the affiliation, connection, or association with, or certification by, another.
(4) Using deceptive representations or designations of geographic origin in connection with goods or services.
(5) Representing that goods or services have sponsorship, approval, characteristics, ingredients, uses, benefits, or quantities which they do not have or that a person has a sponsorship, approval, status, affiliation, or connection which he or she does not have.
(6) Representing that goods are original or new if they have deteriorated unreasonably or are altered, reconditioned, reclaimed, used, or secondhand.
(7) Representing that goods or services are of a particular standard, quality, or grade, or that goods are of a particular style or model, if they are of another.
(8) Disparaging the goods, services, or business of another by false or misleading representation of fact.
(9) Advertising goods or services with intent not to sell them as advertised.
(10) Advertising goods or services with intent not to supply reasonably expectable demand, unless the advertisement discloses a limitation of quantity.
(11) Advertising furniture without clearly indicating that it is unassembled if that is the case.
(12) Advertising the price of unassembled furniture without clearly indicating the assembled price of that furniture if the same furniture is available assembled from the seller.
(13) Making false or misleading statements of fact concerning reasons for, existence of, or amounts of price reductions.
(14) Representing that a transaction confers or involves rights, remedies, or obligations which it does not have or involve, or which are prohibited by law.
(15) Representing that a part, replacement, or repair service is needed when it is not.
(16) Representing that the subject of a transaction has been supplied in accordance with a previous representation when it has not.
(17) Representing that the consumer will receive a rebate, discount, or other economic benefit, if the earning of the benefit is contingent on an event to occur subsequent to the consummation of the transaction.
(18) Misrepresenting the authority of a salesperson, representative, or agent to negotiate the final terms of a transaction with a consumer.
(19) Inserting an unconscionable provision in the contract.
(20) Advertising that a product is being offered at a specific price plus a specific percentage of that price unless (A) the total price is set forth in the advertisement, which may include, but is not limited to, shelf tags, displays, and media advertising, in a size larger than any other price in that advertisement, and (B) the specific price plus a specific percentage of that price represents a markup from the seller’s costs or from the wholesale price of the product. This subdivision shall not apply to in-store advertising by businesses which are open only to members or cooperative organizations organized pursuant to Division 3 (commencing with Section 12000) of Title 1 of the Corporations Code where more than 50 percent of purchases are made at the specific price set forth in the advertisement.
(21) Selling or leasing goods in violation of Chapter 4 (commencing with Section 1797.8) of Title 1.7.
(A) Disseminating an unsolicited prerecorded message by telephone without an unrecorded, natural voice first informing the person answering the telephone of the name of the caller or the organization being represented, and either the address or the telephone number of the caller, and without obtaining the consent of that person to listen to the prerecorded message.
(B) This subdivision does not apply to a message disseminated to a business associate, customer, or other person having an established relationship with the person or organization making the call, to a call for the purpose of collecting an existing obligation, or to any call generated at the request of the recipient.
(23) The home solicitation, as defined in subdivision (h) of Section 1761, of a consumer who is a senior citizen where a loan is made encumbering the primary residence of that consumer for the purposes of paying for home improvements and where the transaction is part of a pattern or practice in violation of either subsection (h) or (i) of Section 1639 of Title 15 of the United States Code or paragraph (e) of Section 226.32 of Title 12 of the Code of Federal Regulations.
A third party shall not be liable under this subdivision unless (A) there was an agency relationship between the party who engaged in home solicitation and the third party or (B) the third party had actual knowledge of, or participated in, the unfair or deceptive transaction. A third party who is a holder in due course under a home solicitation transaction shall not be liable under this subdivision.
(A) Charging or receiving an unreasonable fee to prepare, aid, or advise any prospective applicant, applicant, or recipient in the procurement, maintenance, or securing of public social services.
(B) For purposes of this paragraph, the following definitions shall apply:
(i) “Public social services” means those activities and functions of state and local government administered or supervised by the State Department of Health Care Services, the State Department of Public Health, or the State Department of Social Services, and involved in providing aid or services, or both, including health care services, and medical assistance, to those persons who, because of their economic circumstances or social condition, are in need of that aid or those services and may benefit from them.
(ii) “Public social services” also includes activities and functions administered or supervised by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs or the California Department of Veterans Affairs involved in providing aid or services, or both, to veterans, including pension benefits.
(iii) “Unreasonable fee” means a fee that is exorbitant and disproportionate to the services performed. Factors to be considered, when appropriate, in determining the reasonableness of a fee, are based on the circumstances existing at the time of the service and shall include, but not be limited to, all of the following:
(I) The time and effort required.
(II) The novelty and difficulty of the services.
(III) The skill required to perform the services.
(IV) The nature and length of the professional relationship.
(V) The experience, reputation, and ability of the person providing the services.
(C) This paragraph shall not apply to attorneys licensed to practice law in California, who are subject to the California Rules of Professional Conduct and to the mandatory fee arbitration provisions of Article 13 (commencing with Section 6200) of Chapter 4 of Division 3 of the Business and Professions Code, when the fees charged or received are for providing representation in administrative agency appeal proceedings or court proceedings for purposes of procuring, maintaining, or securing public social services on behalf of a person or group of persons.
(A) Advertising or promoting any event, presentation, seminar, workshop, or other public gathering regarding veterans’ benefits or entitlements that does not include the following statement in the same type size and font as the term “veteran” or any variation of that term:
(i) “I am not authorized to file an initial application for Veterans’ Aid and Attendance benefits on your behalf, or to represent you before the Board of Veterans’ Appeals within the United States Department of Veterans Affairs in any proceeding on any matter, including an application for such benefits. It would be illegal for me to accept a fee for preparing that application on your behalf.” The requirements of this clause do not apply to a person licensed to act as an agent or attorney in proceedings before the Agency of Original Jurisdiction and the Board of Veterans’ Appeals within the United States Department of Veterans Affairs when that person is offering those services at the advertised event.
(ii) The statement in clause (i) shall also be disseminated, both orally and in writing, at the beginning of any event, presentation, seminar, workshop, or public gathering regarding veterans’ benefits or entitlements.
(B) Advertising or promoting any event, presentation, seminar, workshop, or other public gathering regarding veterans’ benefits or entitlements which is not sponsored by, or affiliated with, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, the California Department of Veterans Affairs, or any other congressionally chartered or recognized organization of honorably discharged members of the Armed Forces of the United States, or any of their auxiliaries that does not include the following statement, in the same type size and font as the term “veteran” or the variation of that term:
“This event is not sponsored by, or affiliated with, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, the California Department of Veterans Affairs, or any other congressionally chartered or recognized organization of honorably discharged members of the Armed Forces of the United States, or any of their auxiliaries. None of the insurance products promoted at this sales event are endorsed by those organizations, all of which offer free advice to veterans about how to qualify and apply for benefits.”
(i) The statement in this subparagraph shall be disseminated, both orally and in writing, at the beginning of any event, presentation, seminar, workshop, or public gathering regarding veterans’ benefits or entitlements.
(ii) The requirements of this subparagraph shall not apply in a case where the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, the California Department of Veterans Affairs, or other congressionally chartered or recognized organization of honorably discharged members of the Armed Forces of the United States, or any of their auxiliaries have granted written permission to the advertiser or promoter for the use of its name, symbol, or insignia to advertise or promote the event, presentation, seminar, workshop, or other public gathering.
(26) Representing that a product is made in California by using a Made in California label created pursuant to Section 12098.10 of the Government Code, unless the product complies with Section 12098.10 of the Government Code.
(1) It is an unfair or deceptive act or practice for a mortgage broker or lender, directly or indirectly, to use a home improvement contractor to negotiate the terms of any loan that is secured, whether in whole or in part, by the residence of the borrower and which is used to finance a home improvement contract or any portion thereof. For purposes of this subdivision, “mortgage broker or lender” includes a finance lender licensed pursuant to the California Finance Lenders Law (Division 9 (commencing with Section 22000) of the Financial Code), a residential mortgage lender licensed pursuant to the California Residential Mortgage Lending Act (Division 20 (commencing with Section 50000) of the Financial Code), or a real estate broker licensed under the Real Estate Law (Division 4 (commencing with Section 10000) of the Business and Professions Code).
(2) This section shall not be construed to either authorize or prohibit a home improvement contractor from referring a consumer to a mortgage broker or lender by this subdivision. However, a home improvement contractor may refer a consumer to a mortgage lender or broker if that referral does not violate Section 7157 of the Business and Professions Code or any other provision of law. A mortgage lender or broker may purchase an executed home improvement contract if that purchase does not violate Section 7157 of the Business and Professions Code or any other provision of law. Nothing in this paragraph shall have any effect on the application of Chapter 1 (commencing with Section 1801) of Title 2 to a home improvement transaction or the financing thereof.
Section 1780. Action for damages and other relief; Additional remedy for senior citizens and disabled persons; Treble damages for charging unreasonable fee to assist applicant or recipient in securing public social services; Venue; Court costs and attorney’s fees
(a) Any consumer who suffers any damage as a result of the use or employment by any person of a method, act, or practice declared to be unlawful by Section 1770 may bring an action against that person to recover or obtain any of the following:
(1) Actual damages, but in no case shall the total award of damages in a class action be less than one thousand dollars ($1,000).
(2) An order enjoining the methods, acts, or practices.
(3) Restitution of property.
(4) Punitive damages.
(5) Any other relief that the court deems proper.
(1) Any consumer who is a senior citizen or a disabled person, as defined in subdivisions (f) and (g) of Section 1761, as part of an action under subdivision (a), may seek and be awarded, in addition to the remedies specified therein, up to five thousand dollars ($5,000) where the trier of fact does all of the following:
(A) Finds that the consumer has suffered substantial physical, emotional, or economic damage resulting from the defendant’s conduct.
(B) Makes an affirmative finding in regard to one or more of the factors set forth in subdivision (b) of Section 3345.
(C) Finds that an additional award is appropriate.
(2) Judgment in a class action by senior citizens or disabled persons under Section 1781 may award each class member that additional award if the trier of fact has made the foregoing findings.
(c) Whenever it is proven by a preponderance of the evidence that a defendant has engaged in conduct in violation of paragraph (24) of subdivision (a) of Section 1770, in addition to all other remedies otherwise provided in this section, the court shall award treble actual damages to the plaintiff. This subdivision shall not apply to attorneys licensed to practice law in California, who are subject to the California Rules of Professional Conduct and to the mandatory fee arbitration provisions of Article 13 (commencing with Section 6200) of Chapter 4 of Division 3 of the Business and Professions Code, when the fees charged or received are for providing representation in administrative agency appeal proceedings or court proceedings for purposes of procuring, maintaining, or securing public social services on behalf of a person or group of persons.
(d) An action under subdivision (a) or (b) may be commenced in the county in which the person against whom it is brought resides, has his or her principal place of business, or is doing business, or in the county where the transaction or any substantial portion thereof occurred.
In any action subject to this section, concurrently with the filing of the complaint, the plaintiff shall file an affidavit stating facts showing that the action has been commenced in a county described in this section as a proper place for the trial of the action. If a plaintiff fails to file the affidavit required by this section, the court shall, upon its own motion or upon motion of any party, dismiss the action without prejudice.
(e) The court shall award court costs and attorney’s fees to a prevailing plaintiff in litigation filed pursuant to this section. Reasonable attorney’s fees may be awarded to a prevailing defendant upon a finding by the court that the plaintiff’s prosecution of the action was not in good faith.
Section 1781. Class actions
(a) Any consumer entitled to bring an action under Section 1780 may, if the unlawful method, act, or practice has caused damage to other consumers similarly situated, bring an action on behalf of himself and such other consumers to recover damages or obtain other relief as provided for in Section 1780.
(b) The court shall permit the suit to be maintained on behalf of all members of the represented class if all of the following conditions exist:
(1) It is impracticable to bring all members of the class before the court.
(2) The questions of law or fact common to the class are substantially similar and predominate over the questions affecting the individual members.
(3) The claims or defenses of the representative plaintiffs are typical of the claims or defenses of the class.
(4) The representative plaintiffs will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class.
(c) If notice of the time and place of the hearing is served upon the other parties at least 10 days prior thereto, the court shall hold a hearing, upon motion of any party to the action which is supported by affidavit of any person or persons having knowledge of the facts, to determine if any of the following apply to the action:
(1) A class action pursuant to subdivision (b) is proper.
(2) Published notice pursuant to subdivision (d) is necessary to adjudicate the claims of the class.
(3) The action is without merit or there is no defense to the action.
A motion based upon Section 437c of the Code of Civil Procedure shall not be granted in any action commenced as a class action pursuant to subdivision (a).
(d) If the action is permitted as a class action, the court may direct either party to notify each member of the class of the action. The party required to serve notice may, with the consent of the court, if personal notification is unreasonably expensive or it appears that all members of the class cannot be notified personally, give notice as prescribed herein by publication in accordance with Section 6064 of the Government Code in a newspaper of general circulation in the county in which the transaction occurred.
(e) The notice required by subdivision (d) shall include the following:
(1) The court will exclude the member notified from the class if he so requests by a specified date.
(2) The judgment, whether favorable or not, will include all members who do not request exclusion.
(3) Any member who does not request exclusion, may, if he desires, enter an appearance through counsel.
(f) A class action shall not be dismissed, settled, or compromised without the approval of the court, and notice of the proposed dismissal, settlement, or compromise shall be given in such manner as the court directs to each member who was given notice pursuant to subdivision (d) and did not request exclusion.
(g) The judgment in a class action shall describe those to whom the notice was directed and who have not requested exclusion and those the court finds to be members of the class. The best possible notice of the judgment shall be given in such manner as the court directs to each member who was personally served with notice pursuant to subdivision (d) and did not request exclusion.
Section 1782. Prerequisites to commencement of action
(a) Thirty days or more prior to the commencement of an action for damages pursuant to this title, the consumer shall do the following:
(2) Demand that the person correct, repair, replace, or otherwise rectify the goods or services alleged to be in violation of Section 1770.
The notice shall be in writing and shall be sent by certified or registered mail, return receipt requested, to the place where the transaction occurred or to the person’s principal place of business within California.
(b) Except as provided in subdivision (c), no action for damages may be maintained under Section 1780 if an appropriate correction, repair, replacement, or other remedy is given, or agreed to be given within a reasonable time, to the consumer within 30 days after receipt of the notice.
(c) No action for damages may be maintained under Section 1781 upon a showing by a person alleged to have employed or committed methods, acts, or practices declared unlawful by Section 1770 that all of the following exist:
(1) All consumers similarly situated have been identified, or a reasonable effort to identify such other consumers has been made.
(2) All consumers so identified have been notified that upon their request the person shall make the appropriate correction, repair, replacement, or other remedy of the goods and services.
(3) The correction, repair, replacement, or other remedy requested by the consumers has been, or, in a reasonable time, shall be, given.
(4) The person has ceased from engaging, or if immediate cessation is impossible or unreasonably expensive under the circumstances, the person will, within a reasonable time, cease to engage, in the methods, act, or practices.
(d) An action for injunctive relief brought under the specific provisions of Section 1770 may be commenced without compliance with subdivision (a). Not less than 30 days after the commencement of an action for injunctive relief, and after compliance with subdivision (a), the consumer may amend his or her complaint without leave of court to include a request for damages. The appropriate provisions of subdivision (b) or (c) shall be applicable if the complaint for injunctive relief is amended to request damages.
(e) Attempts to comply with this section by a person receiving a demand shall be construed to be an offer to compromise and shall be inadmissible as evidence pursuant to Section 1152 of the Evidence Code. Furthermore, these attempts to comply with a demand shall not be considered an admission of engaging in an act or practice declared unlawful by Section 1770. Evidence of compliance or attempts to comply with this section may be introduced by a defendant for the purpose of establishing good faith or to show compliance with this section.
Section 1783. Limitation of actions
Any action brought under the specific provisions of Section 1770 shall be commenced not more than three years from the date of the commission of such method, act, or practice.
Section 1784. Defenses
No award of damages may be given in any action based on a method, act, or practice declared to be unlawful by Section 1770 if the person alleged to have employed or committed such method, act, or practice (a) proves that such violation was not intentional and resulted from a bona fide error notwithstanding the use of reasonable procedures adopted to avoid any such error and (b) makes an appropriate correction, repair or replacement or other remedy of the goods and services according to the provisions of subdivisions (b) and (c) of Section 1782.