How Well Does Indiana Protect Consumers from Unfair and Deceptive Business Practices?

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: MARCH 9, 2018

Contact: Indiana Assets & Opportunity Network: Dr. Erin Macey (emacey@incap.org) or (317) 638-4232National Consumer Law Center: Carolyn Carter (ccarter@nclc.org) or Stephen Rouzer (srouzer@nclc.org) or (202) 595-7847

Download the full report, a state-by-state chart comparison, 14 comparative maps, capsule summaries of each state and the District of Columbia laws, and summaries of each jurisdiction’s statutes at: http://bit.ly/2DJKbGp

How Well Does Indiana Protect Consumers from Unfair and Deceptive Business Practices?

National Consumer Law Center Survey Finds Weaknesses in Indiana’s UDAP Law

INDIANAPOLIS– State Unfair and Deceptive Acts and Practices (UDAP) laws prohibit deceptive practices in consumer transactions, such as sales of cars and other goods, loans, home improvements, utility contracts, and mortgage transactions. A new report from the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) finds that while a strength of Indiana’s UDAP statute is that it has broad prohibitions of deceptive and unconscionable acts, the statute has a number of weaknesses:

  • It provides a blanket exemption for insurance transactions;
  • It denies consumers the right to enforce the statute in real estate transactions;
  • It is one of the few states that explicitly requires consumers to prove that they specifically relied on the deception;
  • It requires the consumer to send a special pre-suit notice that is not required in other types of cases; and
  • It does not give a state agency authority to adopt rules prohibiting emerging scams.

“It’s clear that we have some work to do to ensure that consumers in Indiana have strong protections against unfair and deceptive practices,” said Erin Macey, a policy analyst with Indiana Institute for Working Families and member of the Indiana Assets & Opportunity Network steering committee.

"Reducing barriers for consumers taking action against deceptive practices and ensuring that our state can respond to emerging consumer scams in a timely manner are among key policy changes we must examine to try and strengthen asset and community development efforts statewide," said Kathleen Lara, Policy Director for Prosperity Indiana and a member of the Indiana Assets & Opportunity Network steering committee.

“Unfair and Deceptive Acts and Practices laws should be the backbone of consumer protection in every state, but significant gaps or weaknesses in almost all states undermine the promise of these vital protections so the deck is stacked against consumers,” said Carolyn Carter, National Consumer Law Center Deputy Director and author of Consumer Protection in the States: A 50-State Evaluation of Unfair and Deceptive Practices Laws.  

Recommendations

Among National Consumer Law Center’s recommendations for states that want to strengthen UDAP laws are:

  • Eliminating exemptions for lenders, other creditors, insurers, and utility companies;
  • Making it clear that the statute applies to real estate transactions and to post-transaction matters such as abusive collection of consumer debts;
  • Deleting any requirement that knowledge or intent be proven as an element of a UDAP violation;
  • Providing adequate funding for the consumer protection activities of the state agency;
  • Removing any gaps in consumers’ ability to enforce the statute;
  • Deleting any special barriers imposed on consumers before they can invoke a statute’s remedies, such as a special advance notice requirement, a requirement that a consumer who has been cheated prove that the business cheats consumers as a general rule, or a rule that denies consumers who have suffered an invasion of privacy or some other non-monetary injury the ability to enforce the statute; and
  • Amending the statute to make it clear that courts can presume that consumers relied on material misrepresentations, without requiring individual proof.

A full list of recommendations is available at http://bit.ly/2DJKbGp.

The Indiana Assets & Opportunity Network recognizes that consumer protection is an essential ingredient in asset building and strengthening local economies. As it develops next year’s policy agenda, the Network will consider these recommendations and look to strengthen Indiana’s laws.

For more on NCLC’s body of work on unfair and deceptive practices, please visit: https://www.nclc.org/issues/unfair-a-deceptive-acts-a-practices.html. Subscription information for NCLC’s Unfair and Deceptive Acts and Practices, and free access to Chapter One of all of the legal treatises in NCLC’s Consumer Credit and Sales Legal Practices Series, is available at http://www.nclc.org/library.

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The Indiana Assets & Opportunity Network was created to increase asset acquisition for low-wealth Hoosiers and strengthen local economies through policy advocacy and capacity building in partnership with organizations and coalitions. The Network is co-led by Prosperity Indiana and the Indiana Institute for Working Families.

Since 1969, the nonprofit National Consumer Law Center® (NCLC®) has worked for consumer justice and economic security for low-income and other disadvantaged people, including older adults, in the U.S. through its expertise in policy analysis and advocacy, publications, litigation, expert witness services, and training.