Code of the District of Columbia: Chapter 39. Consumer Protection Procedures

Code of the District of Columbia

Chapter 39. Consumer Protection Procedures.

§ 28–3901. Definitions and purposes.    1

§ 28–3902. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs as consumer protection agency.    4

§ 28–3903. Powers of the consumer protection agency.    5

§ 28–3904. Unfair or deceptive trade practices.    10

§ 28–3905. Complaint procedures.    14

§ 28–3906. Consumer education and information.    22

§ 28–3907. Advisory Committee on Consumer Protection.    23

§ 28–3908. Severability.    24

§ [28-3909.01]. Attorney General Authority.    24

§ 28–3910. Investigatory powers of Attorney General [for the District of Columbia].    25

§ 28–3911. District of Columbia Consumer Protection Fund. [Repealed]    26

§ 28–3912. Submissions to the Council.    27

§ 28–3913. Rules.    27

§ 28–3901. Definitions and purposes.

(a) As used in this chapter, the term —

(1) “person” means an individual, firm, corporation, partnership, cooperative, association, or any other organization, legal entity, or group of individuals however organized;

(2) “consumer” means:

(A) When used as a noun, a person who, other than for purposes of resale, does or would purchase, lease (as lessee), or receive consumer goods or services, including as a co-obligor or surety, or does or would otherwise provide the economic demand for a trade practice;

(B) When used as an adjective, describes anything, without exception, that:

(i) A person does or would purchase, lease (as lessee), or receive and normally use for personal, household, or family purposes; or

(ii) A person described in § 28-3905(k)(1)(B) or (C) purchases or receives in order to test or evaluate qualities pertaining to use for personal, household, or family purposes.

(3) “merchant” means a person, whether organized or operating for profit or for a nonprofit purpose, who in the ordinary course of business does or would sell, lease (to), or transfer, either directly or indirectly, consumer goods or services, or a person who in the ordinary course of business does or would supply the goods or services which are or would be the subject matter of a trade practice;

(4) “complainant” means one or more consumers who took part in a trade practice, or one or more persons acting on behalf of (not the legal representative or other counsel of) such consumers, or the successors or assigns of such consumers or persons, once such consumers or persons complain to the Department about the trade practice;

(5) “respondent” means one or more merchants alleged by a complainant to have taken part in or carried out a trade practice, or the successors or assigns of such merchants, and includes other persons who may be deemed legally responsible for the trade practice;

(6) “trade practice” means any act which does or would create, alter, repair, furnish, make available, provide information about, or, directly or indirectly, solicit or offer for or effectuate, a sale, lease or transfer, of consumer goods or services;

(7) “goods and services” means any and all parts of the economic output of society, at any stage or related or necessary point in the economic process, and includes consumer credit, franchises, business opportunities, real estate transactions, and consumer services of all types;

(8) “Department” means the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs;

(9) “Director” means the Director of the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs;

(10) “Chief of the Office of Compliance” means the senior administrative officer of the Department’s Office of Compliance who is delegated the responsibility of carrying out certain duties specified under section 28-3905;

(11) “Office of Adjudication” means the Department’s Office of Adjudication which is responsible for carrying out certain duties specified under section 28-3905;

(12) “Office of Consumer Protection” means the Department’s Office of Consumer Protection which is responsible for carrying out the statutory requirements set forth in § 28-3906; and

(13) “Committee” means the Advisory Committee on Consumer Protection which is responsible for carrying out the statutory requirements set forth in section 28-3907.

(14) “nonprofit organization” means a person who:

(A) Is not an individual; and

(B) Is neither organized nor operating, in whole or in significant part, for profit.

(15) “public interest organization” means a nonprofit organization that is organized and operating, in whole or in part, for the purpose of promoting interests or rights of consumers.

(b) The purposes of this chapter are to:

(1) assure that a just mechanism exists to remedy all improper trade practices and deter the continuing use of such practices;

(2) promote, through effective enforcement, fair business practices throughout the community; and

(3) educate consumers to demand high standards and seek proper redress of grievances.

(c) This chapter shall be construed and applied liberally to promote its purpose. This chapter establishes an enforceable right to truthful information from merchants about consumer goods and services that are or would be purchased, leased, or received in the District of Columbia.

(d) In construing the term “unfair or deceptive trade practice” due consideration and weight shall be given to the interpretation by the Federal Trade Commission and the federal courts of the term “unfair or deceptive act or practice,” as employed in section 5(a) of An Act To create a Federal Trade Commission, to define its powers and duties, and for other purposes, approved September 26, 1914 (38 Stat. 719; 15 U.S.C. § 45(a)).

(July 22, 1976, D.C. Law 1-76, § 2, 23 DCR 1185; enacted, Sept. 6, 1980, D.C. Law 3-85, § 3(a), (d), 27 DCR 2900; Mar. 8, 1991, D.C. Law 8-234, § 2(b), 38 DCR 296; Feb. 5, 1994, D.C. Law 10-68, § 27(b), 40 DCR 6311; Apr. 9, 1997, D.C. Law 11-255, § 27(u), 44 DCR 1271; Oct. 19, 2000, D.C. Law 13-172, § 1402(b), 47 DCR 6308; Oct. 20, 2005, D.C. Law 16-33, § 2032(b), 52 DCR 7503; June 12, 2007, D.C. Law 17-4, § 2(a), 54 DCR 4085; Apr. 23, 2013, D.C. Law 19-282, § 2(b)(1), 60 DCR 2132; July 17, 2018, D.C. Law 22-140, § 2(b), 65 DCR 5970.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 28-3901.

1973 Ed., T. 28, Appx., § 2.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 1-350.10, § 28-3301, and § 28-3905.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 13-172 in subsec. (b)(1) inserted “and deter the continuing use of such practices” following “practices” in subsec. (b)(1) and added subsec. (c) providing for liberal construction of the chapter.

D.C. Law 16-33 rewrote subsec. (a)(12), which had read:

“(12) ‘Office of Consumer Education and Information’ means the Department’s Office of Consumer Education and Information which is responsible for carrying out the statutory requirements set forth in section 28-3906; and”

D.C. Law 17-4 rewrote subsec. (a)(3), which had read as follows: “(3) ‘merchant’ means a person who does or would sell, lease (to), or transfer, either directly or indirectly, consumer goods or services, or a person who does or would supply the goods or services which are or would be the subject matter of a trade practice;”.

The 2013 amendment by D.C. Law 19-282 rewrote (a)(2); added (a)(14) and (a)(15); and added the last sentence in (c).

Cross References

Automobile Consumer Protection Act, see § 50-501 et seq.

Employer-paid personnel services, operation requirements, see § 32-406.

Employment agencies and counseling services, operation requirements, see §§ 32-404 and 32-405.

Job listing services, operation requirements, see § 32-407.

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90-day) amendment of section, see § 1402(b) of the Fiscal Year 2001 Budget Support Emergency Act of 2000 (D.C. Act 13-376, July 24, 2000, 47 DCR 6574).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 1402(b) of the Fiscal Year 2001 Budget Support Congressional Review Emergency Act of 2000 (D.C. Act 13-438, October 20, 2000, 47 DCR 8740).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2032(b) of Fiscal Year 2006 Budget Support Emergency Act of 2005 (D.C. Act 16-168, July 26, 2005, 52 DCR 7667).

Short Title

Short title of subtitle D of title II of Law 16-33: Section 2031 of D.C. Law 16-33 provided that subtitle D of title II of the act may be cited as the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Consumer Protection Revitalization Act of 2005.

Delegation of Authority

Delegation of authority pursuant to Law 1-76, see Mayor’s Order 86-132, August 12, 1986.

§ 28–3902. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs as consumer protection agency.

(a) The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs shall be the principal consumer protection agency of the District of Columbia government and shall carry out the purposes of this chapter.

(b) Repealed.

(c) The Director of the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs shall exercise the powers set forth in section 28-3905 through the Office of Compliance, and shall appoint a Chief of the Office of Compliance from among active members of the unified District of Columbia Bar. The Chief of the Office of Compliance may carry out investigative, conciliatory, and other duties assigned by the Director.

(d) Repealed.

(e) The Mayor shall appoint one or more attorneys qualified to serve as administrative law judges or attorney examiners to conduct adjudicatory proceedings. Any administrative law judge or attorney examiner appointed pursuant to this subsection may hear cases pursuant to § 2-1801.03.

(f) Repealed.

(g) Repealed.

(h) Repealed.

(i) Notwithstanding any other provision of District law, enforcement of this chapter by the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs is suspended until October 1, 2002. This subsection shall not prevent the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs from cooperating with, and making appropriate referrals to, another law enforcement agency.

(July 22, 1976, D.C. Law 1-76, § 3, 23 DCR 1185; enacted, Sept. 6, 1980, D.C. Law 3-85, § 3(a), (d), 27 DCR 2900; Mar. 5, 1981, D.C. Law 3-159, § 2(a), 27 DCR 5147; Oct. 5, 1985, D.C. Law 6-42, § 422, 32 DCR 4450; Mar. 8, 1991, D.C. Law 8-234, § 2(c), 38 DCR 296; Mar. 8, 1991, D.C. Law 8-237, § 4, 38 DCR 314; Feb. 5, 1994, D.C. Law 10-68, § 27(a), (c), 40 DCR 6311; Sept. 26, 1995, D.C. Law 11-52, § 812, 42 DCR 3684; Apr. 9, 1997, D.C. Law 11-255, § 27(v), 44 DCR 1271; Apr. 29, 1998, D.C. Law 12-86, § 1301(a), 45 DCR 1172; Mar. 26, 1999, D.C. Law 12-175, § 1403, 45 DCR 7193; Apr. 20, 1999, D.C. Law 12-264, § 27(b), 46 DCR 2118; Oct. 19, 2000, D.C. Law 13-172, § 1402(c), 47 DCR 6308.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 28-3902.

1973 Ed., T. 28, Appx., § 3.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 13-172 in subsec. (i) substituted 2002 for 2000 and added a new sentence at the end thereof providing cooperating with and making referrals to another law enforcement agency.

Cross References

Prescription drug price posting, enforcement, cease and desist orders, see § 48-804.03.

Prescription drug price posting, informational posters provided to pharmacies, see § 48-801.02.

Emergency Legislation

For temporary amendment of section, see § 811 of the Omnibus Budget Support Congressional Review Emergency Act of 1995 (D.C. Act 11-124, July 27, 1995, 42 DCR 4160).

For temporary amendment of section, see § 503 of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Federal Law Conformity Emergency Amendment Act of 1998 (D.C. Act 12-339, May 4, 1998, 45 DCR 2947) and § 503 of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Federal Law Conformity, Motor Vehicle Insurance, Regulatory Reform, and Consumer Law Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 1998 (D.C. Act 12-429, August 6, 1998, 45 DCR 5890).

For temporary amendment of section, see § 1003 of the Fiscal Year 1999 Budget Support Emergency Act of 1998 (D.C. Act 12-401, July 13, 1998, 45 DCR 4794) and § 1003 of the Fiscal Year 1999 Budget Support Congressional Review Emergency Act of 1998 (D.C. Act 12-564, January 12, 1999, 46 DCR 669).

For temporary (90-day) amendment of section, see § 1003 of the Fiscal Year 1999 Budget Support Congressional Review Emergency Act of 1999 (D.C. Act 13-41, March 31, 1999, 46 DCR 3446).

For temporary (90-day) amendment of section, see § 1402(c) of the Fiscal Year 2001 Budget Support Emergency Act of 2000 (D.C. Act 13-376, July 24, 2000, 47 DCR 6574).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 1402(c) of the Fiscal Year 2001 Budget Support Congressional Review Emergency Act of 2000 (D.C. Act 13-438, October 20, 2000, 47 DCR 8740).

Temporary Legislation

For temporary (225 day) amendment of section, see § 503 of Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Federal Law Conformity, Motor Vehicle Insurance, Regulatory Reform, and Consumer Law Temporary Amendment Act of 1998 (D.C. Law 12-154, September 18, 1998, law notification 45 DCR 6951).

§ 28–3903. Powers of the consumer protection agency.

*NOTE: This section includes amendments by temporary legislation that will expire on February 4, 2022. To view the text of this section after the expiration of all emergency and temporary legislation, click this link: Permanent Version.*

(a) The Department, in its discretion, may:

(1) receive and investigate any consumer complaint and initiate its own investigation of deceptive, unfair, or unlawful trade practices against consumers where the:

(i) amount in controversy totals $250 or more; or

(ii) case, or cases, indicates a pattern or practice of abuse on the part of a business or industry;

(2) issue summonses and subpoenas to compel the production of documents, papers, books, records, and other evidence, hold hearings, compel the attendance of witnesses, administer oaths, and take the testimony of any person under oath, concerning any trade practice;

(3) issue cease and desist orders with respect to trade practices determined to be in violation of District law by the Department;

(4) report to appropriate governmental agencies any information concerning violation of any law;

(5) present the interest of consumers before administrative and regulatory agencies and legislative bodies;

(6) assist, advise, and cooperate with private, local and federal agencies and officials to protect and promote the interest of the District of Columbia consumer public;

(7) assist, develop, and conduct programs of consumer education and information through public hearings, meetings, publications, or other materials prepared for distribution to the consumer public of the District of Columbia;

(8) undertake activities to encourage local business and industry to maintain high standards of honesty, fair business practices, and public responsibility in the production, promotion, and sale of consumer goods and services and in the extension of credit;

(9) exercise and perform such other functions and duties consistent with the purposes or provisions of this chapter which may be deemed necessary or appropriate to protect and promote the welfare of District of Columbia consumers;

(10) [repealed];

(11) implead and interplead persons who are properly parties to a case before the Department under section 28-3905;

(12) negotiate, agree to, and sign consent decrees;

(13) determine whether a person has executed a trade practice in violation of any law of the District of Columbia, and provide full remedy for such violation by:

(A) damages in contract, and orders for restitution, rescission, reformation, repair, and replacement,

(B) stipulations, conditions, and directives, both temporary and permanent, of all kinds,

(C) enforcement of orders and decrees, collection of civil penalties, and other activities, in the courts,

(D) and other lawful methods;

(14) maintain both confidential and public records, and publicize its own actions, in accordance with section 28-3905;

(15) [repealed];

(16) appoint private attorneys from the District of Columbia bar, who shall take action in the name of the Department, and shall promulgate regulations implementing this provision, in order to assist in the enforcement of any consumer complaint; and

(17) impose civil fines, pursuant to Chapter 18 of Title 2, as alternative sanctions for any violation of the provisions of this chapter or of any rules issued under the authority of this chapter. Any violation of this chapter, or of any rule issued under the authority of this chapter, shall be a Class 2 infraction pursuant to 16 DCMR § 3200.1(b), unless the violation is classified otherwise pursuant to rules issued by the Department; except, that notwithstanding any other provision of District law or regulation, during a period of time for which the Mayor has declared a public health emergency pursuant to § 7-2304.01, a violation of this chapter or of any rule issued under the authority of this chapter shall be a Class 1 infraction within the meaning of 16 DCMR § 3200.1(a).

(b) The Department shall:

(1) perform the functions of the Mayor, Department of Consumer Affairs, Board of Consumer Goods Repairs Services or Department of Economic Development in:

(A) the District of Columbia Consumer Credit Protection Act of 1971 (Title 28, Chapters 36, 37, 38, et al.),

(B) the District of Columbia Consumer Retail Credit Regulation (16 DCMR Ch. 1),

(C) the District of Columbia Consumer Goods Repair Regulation (16 DCMR Ch. 6); and

(D) the District of Columbia Consumer LayAway Plan Act (section 28-3818);

(2) render annual reports to the Council and the Mayor as to the number of complaints filed and the nature, status, and disposition thereof, and about the other activities of the Department undertaken during the previous year.

(c) The Department may not:

(1) order damages for personal injury of a tortious nature;

(2) apply the provisions of section 28-3905 to:

(A) landlord-tenant relations;

(B) persons subject to regulation by the Public Service Commission of the District of Columbia;

(C) professional services of clergymen, lawyers, and Christian Science practitioners engaging in their respective professional endeavors;

(D) a television or radio broadcasting station or publisher or printer of a newspaper, magazine, or other form of printed advertising, which broadcasts, publishes, or prints an advertisement which violates District law, except insofar as such station, publisher or printer engages in a trade practice which violates District law in selling or offering for sale its own goods or services, or has knowledge of the advertising being in violation of District law; or

(E) an action of an agency of government.

(July 22, 1976, D.C. Law 1-76, § 4, 23 DCR 1185; June 11, 1977, D.C. Law 2-8, § 4(a), 24 DCR 726; Oct. 4, 1978, D.C. Law 2-115, § 3, 25 DCR 1997; enacted, Sept. 6, 1980, D.C. Law 3-85, § 3(a), (d), 27 DCR 2900; Mar. 8, 1991, D.C. Law 8-234, § 2(d), 38 DCR 296; Feb. 5, 1994, D.C. Law 10-68, § 27(a), (d), 40 DCR 6311; Apr. 9, 1997, D.C. Law 11-255, § 27(w), 44 DCR 1271; Apr. 29, 1998, D.C. Law 12-86, § 1301(b), 45 DCR 1172; Oct. 20, 2005, D.C. Law 16-33, § 2032(c), 52 DCR 7503; Mar. 2, 2007, D.C. Law 16-191,§ 100, 53 DCR 6794; Aug. 16, 2008, D.C. Law 17-219, § 2024, 55 DCR 7598; Feb. 26, 2015, D.C. Law 20-155, § 2012(a), 61 DCR 9990; Oct. 22, 2015, D.C. Law 21-36, § 7029, 62 DCR 10905; June 24, 2021, D.C. Law 24-9, § 305, 68 DCR 004824.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 28-3903.

1973 Ed., T. 28, Appx., § 4.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 28-3905, § 28-3906, and § 28-4002.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 16-33 repealed subsecs. (a)(10) and (a)(15), which had read:

“(10) publish rules and regulations governing the Department’s procedures, developed by the Director in accordance with the District of Columbia Administrative Procedure Act ( sections 2-501 et seq.);”

“(15) issue rules that interpret, define, state general policy, or prescribe requirements to prevent unfair, deceptive, and unlawful trade practices as set forth in section 28-3904;”

D.C. Law 16-191, in subsecs. (a)(13)(D) and (14), validated previously made technical corrections.

D.C. Law 17-219, in subsec. (a)(1)(i), substituted “$250” for “$2,500”.

The 2015 amendment by D.C. Law 20-155 added (a)(17) and made related changes.

The 2015 amendment by D.C. Law 21-36 substituted “Chapter 18 of Title 2″ for ” Section 28-3905″ in (a)(17).

Cross References

Hearing aid dealers and consumers, office of consumer protection, powers and duties, see § 28-4002.

Prescription drug price posting, enforcement, cease and desist orders, see § 48-804.03.

Prescription drug price posting, informational posters provided to pharmacies, see § 48-801.02.

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 305 of Coronavirus Support Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 2021 (D.C. Act 24-96, June 7, 2021, 68 DCR 006025).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 305 of Coronavirus Support Emergency Amendment Act of 2021 (D.C. Act 24-30, Mar. 17, 2021, 68 DCR 003101).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 305 of Coronavirus Support Second Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 2020 (D.C. Act 23-405, Aug. 19, 2020, 67 DCR 10235).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 305 of Coronavirus Support Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 2020 (D.C. Act 23-328, June 8, 2020, 67 DCR 7598).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 305 of Coronavirus Support Emergency Amendment Act of 2020 (D.C. Act 23-326, May 27, 2020, 67 DCR 7045).

For temporary amendment of section, see § 2 of the Omnibus Regulatory Reform Amendment Act of 1998 Emergency Repealer Act of 1998 (D.C. Act 12-297, March 4, 1998, 45 DCR 1773), and see § 2 of the Omnibus Regulatory Reform Congressional Review Emergency Repealer Act of 1998 (D.C. Act 12-387, July 13, 1998, 45 DCR 4792).

For temporary amendment of section, see § 2 of the Omnibus Regulatory Reform and Alcoholic Beverage Control DC Arena Clarifying Emergency Amendment Act of 1999 (D.C. Act 13-1, January 29, 1999, 46 DCR 2284).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2032(c) of Fiscal Year 2006 Budget Support Emergency Act of 2005 (D.C. Act 16-168, July 26, 2005, 52 DCR 7667).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 2012(a) of the Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Support Emergency Act of 2014 (D.C. Act 20-377, July 14, 2014, 61 DCR 7598, 20 STAT 3696).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 2012(a) of the Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Support Congressional Review Emergency Act of 2014 (D.C. Act 20-449, October 10, 2014, 61 DCR 10915, 20 STAT 4188).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 2012(a) of the Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Support Second Congressional Review Emergency Act of 2014 (D.C. Act 20-566, January 9, 2015, 62 DCR 884, 21 STAT 541).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 2(c- 1) of the Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Support Clarification Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 2014 (D.C. Act 20-587, January 13, 2015, 62 DCR 1294, 21 STAT 758).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 7016(c) of the Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Support Emergency Act of 2015 (D.C. Act 21-127, July 27, 2015, 62 DCR 10201).

Temporary Legislation

For temporary (225 days) amendment of this section, see § 305 of Coronavirus Support Temporary Amendment Act of 2021 (D.C. Law 24-9, June 24, 2021, 68 DCR 004824).

For temporary (225 days) amendment of this section, see § 305 of Coronavirus Support Temporary Amendment Act of 2020 (D.C. Law 23-130, Oct. 9, 2020, 67 DCR 8622).

For temporary (225 day) amendment of section, see § 2 of the Cooperative Association Amendment Act of 1998 (D.C. Law 12-117, April 13, 1999, law notification 46 DCR 3839).

For temporary (225 day) amendment of section, see § 2 of the Omnibus Regulatory Reform Temporary Amendment Act of 1999 (D.C. Law 13-3, May 28, 1999, law notification 46 DCR 5303).

For temporary (225 days) amendment of this section, see § 2(c) of the Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Support Clarification Temporary Amendment Act of 2014 (D.C. Law 20-179, March 7, 2015, 62 DCR 424).

Short Title

Short title: Section 2023 of D.C. Law 17-219 provided that subtitle J of title II of the act may be cited as the “Consumer Protection Act of 2008”.

§ 28–3904. Unfair or deceptive trade practices.

*NOTE: This section includes amendments by temporary legislation that will expire on February 4, 2022. To view the text of this section after the expiration of all emergency and temporary legislation, click this link: Permanent Version.*

It shall be a violation of this chapter for any person to engage in an unfair or deceptive trade practice, whether or not any consumer is in fact misled, deceived, or damaged thereby, including to:

(a) represent that goods or services have a source, sponsorship, approval, certification, accessories, characteristics, ingredients, uses, benefits, or quantities that they do not have;

(b) represent that the person has a sponsorship, approval, status, affiliation, certification, or connection that the person does not have;

(c) represent that goods are original or new if in fact they are deteriorated, altered, reconditioned, reclaimed, or second hand, or have been used;

(d) represent that goods or services are of particular standard, quality, grade, style, or model, if in fact they are of another;

(e) misrepresent as to a material fact which has a tendency to mislead;

(e-1) [r]epresent that a transaction confers or involves rights, remedies, or obligations which it does not have or involve, or which are prohibited by law;

(f) fail to state a material fact if such failure tends to mislead;

(f-1) [u]se innuendo or ambiguity as to a material fact, which has a tendency to mislead;

(g) disparage the goods, services, or business of another by false or misleading representations of material facts;

(h) advertise or offer goods or services without the intent to sell them or without the intent to sell them as advertised or offered;

(i) advertise or offer goods or services without supplying reasonably expected public demand, unless the advertisement or offer discloses a limitation of quantity or other qualifying condition which has no tendency to mislead;

(j) make false or misleading representations of fact concerning the reasons for, existence of, or amounts of price reductions, or the price in comparison to price of competitors or one’s own price at a past or future time;

(k) falsely state that services, replacements, or repairs are needed;

(l) falsely state the reasons for offering or supplying goods or services at sale or discount prices;

(m) harass or threaten a consumer with any act other than legal process, either by telephone, cards, letters, or any form of electronic or social media;

(n) cease work on, or return after ceasing work on, an electrical or mechanical apparatus, appliance, chattel or other goods, or merchandise, in other than the condition contracted for, or to impose a separate charge to reassemble or restore such an object to such a condition without notification of such charge prior to beginning work on or receiving such object;

(o) replace parts or components in an electrical or mechanical apparatus, appliance, chattel or other goods, or merchandise when such parts or components are not defective, unless requested by the consumer;

(p) falsely state or represent that repairs, alterations, modifications, or servicing have been made and receiving remuneration therefor when they have not been made;

(q) fail to supply to a consumer a copy of a sales or service contract, lease, promissory note, trust agreement, or other evidence of indebtedness which the consumer may execute;

(r) make or enforce unconscionable terms or provisions of sales or leases; in applying this subsection, consideration shall be given to the following, and other factors:

(1) knowledge by the person at the time credit sales are consummated that there was no reasonable probability of payment in full of the obligation by the consumer;

(2) knowledge by the person at the time of the sale or lease of the inability of the consumer to receive substantial benefits from the property or services sold or leased;

(3) gross disparity between the price of the property or services sold or leased and the value of the property or services measured by the price at which similar property or services are readily obtainable in transactions by like buyers or lessees;

(4) that the person contracted for or received separate charges for insurance with respect to credit sales with the effect of making the sales, considered as a whole, unconscionable; and

(5) that the person has knowingly taken advantage of the inability of the consumer reasonably to protect his interests by reasons of age, physical or mental infirmities, ignorance, illiteracy, or inability to understand the language of the agreement, or similar factors;

(s) pass off goods or services as those of another;

(t) use deceptive representations or designations of geographic origin in connection with goods or services;

(u) represent that the subject of a transaction has been supplied in accordance with a previous representation when it has not;

(v) misrepresent the authority of a salesman, representative or agent to negotiate the final terms of a transaction;

(w) offer for sale or distribute any consumer product which is not in conformity with an applicable consumer product safety standard or has been ruled a banned hazardous product under the federal Consumer Product Safety Act (15 U.S.C. § 2051-83), without holding a certificate issued in accordance with section 14(a) of that Act to the effect that such consumer product conforms to all applicable consumer product safety rules (unless the certificate holder knows that such consumer product does not conform), or without relying in good faith on the representation of the manufacturer or a distributor of such product that the product is not subject to a consumer product safety rule issued under that Act;

(x) sell consumer goods in a condition or manner not consistent with that warranted by operation of sections 28:2-312 through 318 of the District of Columbia Official Code, or by operation or requirement of federal law;

(y) violate any provision of the District of Columbia Consumer LayAway Plan Act (section 28-3818);

(z) violate any provision of the Rental Housing Locator Consumer Protection Act of 1979 (section 28-3819) or, if a rental housing locator, to refuse or fail to honor any obligation under a rental housing locator contract;

(z-1) violate any provision of Chapter 46 of this title;

(aa) violate any provision of sections 32-404, 32-405, 32-406, and 32-407;

(bb) refuse to provide the repairs, refunds, or replacement motor vehicles or fails to provide the disclosures of defects or damages required by the Automobile Consumer Protection Act of 1984;

(cc) violate any provision of the Real Property Credit Line Deed of Trust Act of 1987;

(dd) violate any provision of title 16 of the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations;

(ee) violate any provision of the Public Insurance Adjuster Act of 2002 [Chapter 16A of Title 31];

(ff) violate any provision of Chapter 33 of this title;

(gg) violate any provision of the Home Equity Protection Act of 2007 [Chapter 24A of Title 42];

(hh) fail to make a disclosure as required by § 26-1113(a-1);

(ii) violate any provision of Chapter 53 of this title;

(jj) violate any agreement entered into pursuant to section 28-3909(c)(6);

(kk) violate any provision of subchapter 2 of Chapter 38 of this title;

(ll) violate any provision of 17 DCMR § 3013;

(mm) violate any provision of 17 DCMR § 3117; or

(nn) Not Funded.

(July 22, 1976, D.C. Law 1-76, § 5, 23 DCR 1185; Oct. 4, 1978, D.C. Law 2-115, § 3, 25 DCR 1997; June 21, 1980, D.C. Law 3-71, § 3(a), 27 DCR 1891; enacted, Sept. 6, 1980, D.C. Law 3-85, § 3(a), (d), 27 DCR 2900; Mar. 13, 1985, D.C. Law 5-136, § 16, 31 DCR 5727; Mar. 14, 1985, D.C. Law 5-162, § 9(a), 32 DCR 160; Jan. 28, 1988, D.C. Law 7-67, § 5, 34 DCR 7441; Mar. 8, 1991, D.C. Law 8-234, § 2(e), 38 DCR 296; Mar. 8, 1991, D.C. Law 8-236, § 9, 38 DCR 306; Feb. 5, 1994, D.C. Law 10-68, § 27(e), 40 DCR 6311; July 25, 1995, D.C. Law 11-30, § 7(h), 42 DCR 1547; Apr. 9, 1997, D.C. Law 11-255, § 27(x), 44 DCR 1271; Mar. 27, 2003, D.C. Law 14-256, § 11(b), 50 DCR 238; Mar. 13, 2004, D.C. Law 15-105, § 63, 51 DCR 881; Nov. 24, 2007, D.C. Law 17-42, § 3(b), 54 DCR 9988; Jan. 29, 2008, D.C. Law 17-87, § 7, 54 DCR 11913; Jan. 29, 2008, D.C. Law 17-90, § 3, 54 DCR 11925; Mar. 25, 2009, D.C. Law 17-353, § 222, 56 DCR 1117; Apr. 23, 2013, D.C. Law 19-282, § 2(b)(2), 60 DCR 2132; Feb. 26, 2015, D.C. Law 20-155, § 2012(b), 61 DCR 9990; Apr. 22, 2017, D.C. Law 21-280, § 6(b), 64 DCR 168; July 17, 2018, D.C. Law 22-140, § 2(c), 65 DCR 5970; June 17, 2020, D.C. Law 23-98, § 2(b)(1), 67 DCR 3923; Mar. 16, 2021, D.C. Law 23-187, § 2(b), 68 DCR 001031; June 24, 2021, D.C. Law 24-9, § 302(b), 68 DCR 004824.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 28-3904.

1973 Ed., T. 28, Appx., § 5.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 16-4431, § 28-3905, § 28-3909, § 28-4006, and § 38-1312.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 14-256 added subsec. (ee).

D.C. Law 15-105, in subsec. (ee), validated a previously made technical correction.

D.C. Law 17-42, in subsec. (cc), deleted “or” from the end; in subsec. (dd), substituted a semicolon for a period; in subsec. (ee), substituted “; or” for a period; and added subsec. (ff).

D.C. Law 17-87, in subsec. (ee), deleted “or” from the end; in subsec. (ff), substituted “; or” for a period; and added subsec. (gg).

D.C. Law 17-90, in subsec. (ff), deleted “or” from the end; in subsec. (gg), substituted “; or” for a period; and added subsec. (hh).

D.C. Law 17-353 validated previously made technical corrections in pars. (ff), (gg), and (hh).

The 2013 amendment by D.C. Law 19-282 added (e-1) and (f-1).

The 2015 amendment by D.C. Law 20-155 rewrote (m).

Cross References

Automobile Consumer Protection Act, limitations of actions, see § 50-507.

Automobile Consumer Protection Act, rules and regulations for implementation, see § 50-508.

Education licensure commission, criminal sanctions, fines and penalties, see § 38-1312.

Employment Services Licensing and Regulation Act, penalties for violations, see § 32-414.

Hearing aid dealers and consumers, grounds for revocation and suspension, see § 28-4006.

Applicability

Applicability of D.C. Law 23-187: § 3 of D.C. Law 23-187 provided that the change made to this section by § 2(b) of D.C. Law 23-187 is subject to the inclusion of the law’s fiscal effect in an approved budget and financial plan. Therefore that amendment has not been implemented.

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 302(b) of Coronavirus Support Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 2021 (D.C. Act 24-96, June 7, 2021, 68 DCR 006025).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 302(b) of Coronavirus Support Emergency Amendment Act of 2021 (D.C. Act 24-30, Mar. 17, 2021, 68 DCR 003101).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 302(b) of Coronavirus Support Second Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 2020 (D.C. Act 23-405, Aug. 19, 2020, 67 DCR 10235).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 302(b) of Coronavirus Support Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 2020 (D.C. Act 23-328, June 8, 2020, 67 DCR 7598).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 302(b) of Coronavirus Support Emergency Amendment Act of 2020 (D.C. Act 23-326, May 27, 2020, 67 DCR 7045).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 2012(b) of the Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Support Emergency Act of 2014 (D.C. Act 20-377, July 14, 2014, 61 DCR 7598, 20 STAT 3696).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 2012(b) of the Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Support Congressional Review Emergency Act of 2014 (D.C. Act 20-449, October 10, 2014, 61 DCR 10915, 20 STAT 4188).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 2012(b) of the Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Support Second Congressional Review Emergency Act of 2014 (D.C. Act 20-566, January 9, 2015, 62 DCR 884, 21 STAT 541).

Temporary Legislation

For temporary (225 days) amendment of this section, see § 302(b) of Coronavirus Support Temporary Amendment Act of 2021 (D.C. Law 24-9, June 24, 2021, 68 DCR 004824).

For temporary (225 days) amendment of this section, see § 302(b) of Coronavirus Support Temporary Amendment Act of 2020 (D.C. Law 23-130, Oct. 9, 2020, 67 DCR 8622).

References in Text

The Public Insurance Adjuster Licensure Act of 2002, referred to in subsec. (ee), is D.C. Law 14-256.

The “Automobile Consumer Protection Act of 1984”, referred to in paragraph (bb) of this section, is D.C. Law 5-162, codified as Chapter 5 of Title 50.

The “Real Property Credit Line Deed of Trust Act of 1987,” referred to in subsection (cc) of this section, is codified as Chapter 23 of Title 42.

Effective Dates

Section 4 of D.C. Law 17-42 provided: “This act shall take effect following the certification by the Chief Financial Officer, through a revised quarterly revenue estimate for fiscal year 2008, that local funds exceed the annual revenue estimates incorporated in the fiscal year 2008 budget and financial plan in an amount sufficient to account for its fiscal effect. The Chief Financial Officer shall set aside revenue to account for the cost of fully implementing this act.”

Editor’s Notes

Application of D.C. Law 14-256 including the amendments to this section: See section 12 of D.C. Law 14-256, codified as § 31-1631.12.

§ 28–3905. Complaint procedures.

(a) A case is begun by filing with the Department a complaint plainly describing a trade practice and stating the complainant’s (and, if different, the consumer’s) name and address, the name and address (if known) of the respondent, and such other information as the Director may require. The complaint must be in or reduced by the Director to writing. The filing of a complaint with the Department shall toll the periods for limitation of time for bringing an action as set out in section 12-301 until the complaint has been resolved through an administrative order, consent decree, or dismissal in accordance with this section or until an opportunity to arbitrate has been provided in Chapter 5 of Title 50.

(b)(1) Except as provided in paragraph (2) of this subsection, the Director shall investigate each such complaint and determine:

(A) What trade practice actually occurred; and

(B) Whether the trade practice which occurred violates any statute, regulation, rule of common law, or other law of the District of Columbia.

(2) The Director may, in his or her discretion, decline to prosecute certain cases as necessary to manage the Department’s caseload and control program costs.

(b-1) In carrying out an investigation and determination pursuant to subsection (b) of this section, the Director shall consult the respondent and such other available sources of information, and make such other efforts, as are appropriate and necessary to carry out such duties.

(c) If at any time the Director finds that the trade practice complained of may, in whole or in part, be a violation of law other than a law of the District of Columbia or a law within the jurisdiction of the Department, the Director may in writing so inform the complainant, respondent and officials of the District, the United States, or other jurisdiction, who would properly enforce such law.

(d) The Director shall determine that there are, or are not, reasonable grounds to believe that a trade practice, in violation of a law of the District of Columbia within the jurisdiction of the Department, has occurred in any part or all of the case. The Director may find that there are not such reasonable grounds for any of the following reasons:

(1) any violation of law which may have occurred is of a law not of the District of Columbia or not within the jurisdiction of the Department, or occurred more than three years prior to the filing of the complaint;

(2) in case paragraph (1) of this subsection does not apply, no trade practice occurred in violation of any law of the District;

(3) the respondent cannot be identified or located, or would not be subject to the personal jurisdiction of a District of Columbia court;

(4) the complainant, to the Director’s knowledge, no longer seeks redress in the case;

(5) the complainant and respondent, to the Director’s knowledge, have themselves reached an agreement which settles the case; or

(6) the complainant can no longer be located.

(d-1) The Director may dismiss any part or all of a case to which one or more of the reasons stated in subsection (d) of this section apply. The Director shall inform all parties in writing of the determination, and, if any part or all of the case is dismissed, shall specify which of the reasons in this subsection applies to which part of the case, and such other detail as is necessary to explain the dismissal.

(e) The Director may attempt to settle, in accordance with subsection (h) of this section, each case for which reasonable grounds are found in accordance with subsection (d-1) of this section. After the Director’s determination as to whether the complaint is within the Department’s jurisdiction, in accordance with subsection (d-1) of this section, the Director shall:

(1) effect a consent decree;

(2) dismiss the case in accordance with subsection (h)(2) of this section;

(3) through the Chief of the Office of Compliance present to the Office of Adjudication, with copies to all parties, a brief and plain statement of each trade practice that occurred in violation of District law, the law the trade practice violates, and the relief sought from the Office of Adjudication for violation; or

(4) notify all parties of another action taken, with the reasons therefor stated in detail and supported by fact. Reasons may include:

(A) any reason listed in subsections (d)(1) through (d)(6) of this section; and

(B) that the presentation of a charge to the Office of Adjudication would not serve the purposes of this chapter.

(5) Repealed.

(f) When the case is transmitted to the Office of Adjudication, the Chief of the Office of Compliance shall sign, and serve the respondent, the Department’s summons to answer or appear before the Office of Adjudication. Not less than 15 nor more than 90 days after such transmittal, the case shall be heard. The case shall proceed under section 10 of the District of Columbia Administrative Procedure Act (section 2-509). The Office of Adjudication may, without delaying its hearing or decision, attempt to settle the case pursuant to subsection (h) of this section, and has discretion to permit any stipulation or consent decree the parties agree to. The Director shall be a party on behalf of the complainant. Applications to intervene shall be decided as may be proper or required by law or rule. Reasonable discovery shall be freely allowed. Any finding or decision may be modified or set aside, in whole or part, before a notice of appeal is filed in the case, or the time to so file has run out.

(g) If, after hearing the evidence, the Office of Adjudication decides a trade practice occurred in which the respondent violated a law of the District of Columbia within the jurisdiction of the Department, such Office of Adjudication shall issue an order which:

(1) shall require the respondent to cease and desist from such conduct;

(2) shall, if such Office of Adjudication also decides that the consumer has been injured by the trade practice, order redress through contract damages, restitution for money, time, property or other value received from the consumer by the respondent, or through rescission, reformation, repair, replacement, or other just method;

(3) shall state the number of trade practices the respondent performed in violation of law;

(4) shall, absent good cause found by the Office of Adjudication, require the respondent to pay the Department its costs for investigation, negotiation, and hearing;

(5) may include such other findings, stipulations, conditions, directives, and remedies including punitive damages, treble damages, or reasonable attorney’s fees, as are reasonable and necessary to identify, correct, or prevent the conduct which violated District law; and

(6) may be based, in whole or part, upon a violation of a law establishing or regulating a type of business, occupational or professional license or permit, and may refer the case for further proceedings to an appropriate board or commission, but may not suspend or revoke a license or permit if there is a board or commission which oversees the specific type of license or permit.

(h)(1) At any time after reasonable grounds are found in accordance with subsection (d) of this section, the respondent, the Department (represented by (i) the Director prior to transmittal to the Office of Adjudication and after an order issued pursuant to subsection (f) of this section has been appealed, and (ii) the Office of Adjudication after transmittal to the Office of Adjudication and prior to such appeal), and the complainant, may agree to settle all or part of the case by a written consent decree which may:

(A) include any provision described in subsection (g)(2) through (6) of this section;

(B) not contain an assertion that the respondent has violated a law;

(C) contain an assurance that the respondent will refrain from a trade practice;

(D) bar the Department from further action in the case, or a part thereof; or

(E) contain such other provisions or considerations as the parties agree to.

(2) The representative of the Department shall administer the settlement proceedings, and may utilize the good offices of the Advisory Committee on Consumer Protection. All settlement proceedings shall be informal and include all interested parties and such representatives as the parties may choose to represent them. Such proceedings shall be private, and nothing said or done, except a consent decree, shall be made public by the Department, any party, or the Advisory Committee, unless the parties agree thereto in writing. The representative of the Department may call settlement conferences. For persistent and unreasonable failure by the complainant to attend such conferences or to take part in other settlement proceedings, the Director, prior to transmittal to the Office of Adjudication, may dismiss the case.

(3) A consent decree described in paragraph (1) of this subsection may be modified by agreement of the Department, complainant and respondent.

(i)(1) An aggrieved party may appeal to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals after:

(A) the Office of Adjudication decides a case pursuant to subsection (f) of this section;

(B) all parts of a case have been dismissed by operation of subsection (d) or (e) of this section; or

(C) the Director dismisses an entire case in accordance with subsection (h)(2) of this section.

(1A) Such appeals shall be conducted in accordance with the procedures and standards of section 11 of the District of Columbia Administrative Procedure Act (section 2-510), and take into account the procedural duties placed upon the Department in this section and all actions taken by the Department in the case.

(2) An aggrieved party may appeal any ruling of the Office of Adjudication under subsection (j) of this section to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.

(3)(A) Any person found to have executed a trade practice in violation of a law of the District within the jurisdiction of the Department may be liable for a civil penalty not exceeding $1,000 for each failure to adhere to a provision of an order described in subsection (f), (g), or (j) of this section, or a consent decree described in subsection (h) of this section.

(B) The Department, the complainant, or the respondent may sue in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia for a remedy, enforcement, or assessment or collection of a civil penalty, when any violation, or failure to adhere to a provision of a consent decree described in subsection (h) of this section, or an order described in subsection (f), (g), or (j) of this section, has occurred. The Department shall sue in that Court for assessment of a civil penalty when an order described in subsection (g) of this section has been issued and become final. A failure by the Department or any person to file suit or prosecute under this subparagraph in regard to any provision or violation of a provision of any consent decree or order, shall not constitute a waiver of such provision or any right under such provision. The Court shall levy the appropriate civil penalties, and may order, if supported by evidence, temporary, preliminary, or permanent injunctions, damages, treble damages, reasonable attorney’s fees, consumer redress, or other remedy. The Court may set aside the final order if the Court determines that the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs lacked jurisdiction over the respondent or that the complaint was frivolous. If, after considering an application to set aside an order of the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, the Court determines that the application was frivolous or that the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs lacked jurisdiction, the Court shall award reasonable attorney’s fees.

(C) Application to the Court to enforce an order shall be made at no cost to the District of Columbia or the complainant.

(4) The Attorney General for the District of Columbia shall represent the Department in all proceedings described in this subsection.

(j) If, at any time before notice of appeal from a decision made according to subsection (f) of this section is filed or the time to so file has run out, the Director believes that legal action is necessary to preserve the subject matter of the case, to prevent further injury to any party, or to enable the Department ultimately to order a full and fair remedy in the case, the Chief of the Office of Compliance shall present the matter to the Office of Adjudication, which may issue a cease and desist order to take effect immediately, or grant such other relief as will assure a just adjudication of the case, in accordance with such beliefs of the Director which are substantiated by evidence. The Office of Adjudication’s ruling may be appealed to court within 7 days of notice thereof on the Director, respondent, and complainant.

(k)(1)(A) A consumer may bring an action seeking relief from the use of a trade practice in violation of a law of the District.

(B) An individual may, on behalf of that individual, or on behalf of both the individual and the general public, bring an action seeking relief from the use of a trade practice in violation of a law of the District when that trade practice involves consumer goods or services that the individual purchased or received in order to test or evaluate qualities pertaining to use for personal, household, or family purposes.

(C) A nonprofit organization may, on behalf of itself or any of its members, or on any such behalf and on behalf of the general public, bring an action seeking relief from the use of a trade practice in violation of a law of the District, including a violation involving consumer goods or services that the organization purchased or received in order to test or evaluate qualities pertaining to use for personal, household, or family purposes.

(D)(i) Subject to sub-subparagraph (ii) of this subparagraph, a public interest organization may, on behalf of the interests of a consumer or a class of consumers, bring an action seeking relief from the use by any person of a trade practice in violation of a law of the District if the consumer or class could bring an action under subparagraph (A) of this paragraph for relief from such use by such person of such trade practice.

(ii) An action brought under sub-subparagraph (i) of this subparagraph shall be dismissed if the court determines that the public interest organization does not have sufficient nexus to the interests involved of the consumer or class to adequately represent those interests.

(2) Any claim under this chapter shall be brought in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia and may recover or obtain the following remedies:

(A)(i) Treble damages, or $1,500 per violation, whichever is greater, payable to the consumer;

(ii) Notwithstanding sub-subparagraph (i) of this subparagraph, for a violation of § 28-3904(kk) a consumer may recover or obtain actual damages. Actual damages shall not include dignitary damages, including pain and suffering.

(B) Reasonable attorney’s fees;

(C) Punitive damages;

(D) An injunction against the use of the unlawful trade practice;

(E) In representative actions, additional relief as may be necessary to restore to the consumer money or property, real or personal, which may have been acquired by means of the unlawful trade practice; or

(F) Any other relief which the court determines proper.

(3) Any written decision made pursuant to subsection (f) of this section is admissible as prima facie evidence of the facts stated therein.

(4) If a merchant files in any court a suit seeking to collect a debt arising out of a trade practice from which has also arisen a complaint filed with the Department by the defendant in the suit either before or after the suit was filed, the court shall dismiss the suit without prejudice, or remand it to the Department.

(5) An action brought by a person under this subsection against a nonprofit organization shall not be based on membership in such organization, membership services, training or credentialing activities, sale of publications of the nonprofit organization, medical or legal malpractice, or any other transaction, interaction, or dispute not arising from the purchase or sale of consumer goods or services in the ordinary course of business.

(6) The right of action established by this subsection shall apply to trade practices arising from landlord-tenant relations.

(l) The Director and Office of Adjudication may use any power granted to the Department in section 28-3903, as each reasonably deems will aid in carrying out the functions assigned to each in this section. Each, while holding the primary responsibility of the Department for decision in a certain case, may join such case with others then before the Department. No case may be disposed of in a manner not expressly authorized in this section. Every complaint case filed with the Department and within its jurisdiction shall be decided in accordance with the procedures and sanctions of this section, notwithstanding that a given trade practice, at issue in the case, may be governed in whole or in part by another law which has different enforcement procedures and sanctions.

(m)(1) Whenever requested, the Department will make available to the complainant and respondent an explanation, and any other information helpful in understanding, the provisions of any consent decree to which the Department agrees, and any order or decision which the Department makes.

(2) The Director shall maintain a public index for all the cases on which the Department has made a final action or a consent decree, organized by:

(A) name of complainant;

(B) name of respondent;

(C) industry of the merchant involved;

(D) nature of the violation of District law alleged or found to exist (for example, subsection of section 28-3904 involved, or section of a licensing law involved);

(E) final disposition.

(n) There shall be established a Consumer Protection Education Fund (“Fund”). All monies awarded to or paid to the Department by operation of this section, including final judgements, consent decrees, or settlements reduced to final judgements, shall be paid into the Fund in order to further the purpose of this chapter as enumerated in § 28-3901.

(o) Every complaint case that is before the Department in accordance with this section shall proceed in confidence, except for hearings and meetings before the Office of Adjudication, until the Department makes a final action or a consent decree.

(p) The Director may file a complaint in accordance with subsection (a) of this section, on behalf of one or more consumers or as complainant, based on evidence and information gathered by the Department in carrying out this chapter. Persons not parties to but directly or indirectly intended as beneficiaries of an order described in subsection (f), (g), or (j) of this section, or a consent decree described in subsection (h) of this section, arising out of a complaint filed by the Director, may enforce such order or decree in the manner provided in subsection (i)(3)(B) of this section.

(q) At any hearing pursuant to subsection (f) or (j) of this section, a witness has the right to be advised by counsel present at such hearing. In any process under this section, the complainant and respondent may have legal or other counsel for representation and advice.

(r) All cases for which complaints were filed before March 5, 1981, may be presented to and heard by the Office of Adjudication notwithstanding the time limits previously provided in section 28-3905(d), 28-3905(e), and 28-3905(f) for the investigation and transmittal of cases to the Office of Adjudication, and for the hearing of cases by the Office of Adjudication.

(July 22, 1976, D.C. Law 1-76, § 6, 23 DCR 1185; June 11, 1977, D.C. Law 2-8, § 4(b), 24 DCR 726; enacted, Sept. 6, 1980, D.C. Law 3-85, § 3(a), (d), 27 DCR 2900; Mar. 5, 1981, D.C. Law 3-159, §§ 2(b), (c), 3, 27 DCR 5147; Mar. 8, 1991, D.C. Law 8-234, § 2(f), 38 DCR 296; Feb. 5, 1994, D.C. Law 10-68, § 27(f), 40 DCR 6311; Apr. 9, 1997, D.C. Law 11-255, § 27(y), 44 DCR 1271; Apr. 29, 1998, D.C. Law 12-86, § 1301(c), 45 DCR 1172; Oct. 19, 2000, D.C. Law 13-172, § 1402(d), 47 DCR 6308; Oct. 20, 2005, D.C. Law 16-33, § 2032(d), 52 DCR 7503; June 12, 2007, D.C. Law 17-4,§ 2(b), 54 DCR 4085; Apr. 23, 2013, D.C. Law 19-282, § 2(b)(3), 60 DCR 2132; Feb. 26, 2015, D.C. Law 20-155, § 2012(c), 61 DCR 9990; Feb. 22, 2019, D.C. Law 22-206, § 2(a), 65 DCR 12363; June 17, 2020, D.C. Law 23-98, § 2(b)(2), 67 DCR 3923.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 28-3905.

1973 Ed., T. 28, Appx., § 6.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 28-3818, § 28-3901, § 28-3902, § 28-3903, § 28-3906, and § 28-4002.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 13-172 added the introductory sentence to subsec. (k)(2) pertaining to the penalties being cumulative and additional and rewrote subsec. (k)(1).

D.C. Law 16-33 rewrote subsec. (b), which had read:

“(b) The Director shall investigate each such complaint and determine:

“(1) what trade practice actually occurred, and

“(2) whether the trade practice which occurred violates any statute, regulation, rule of common law, or other law, of the District of Columbia.”

D.C. Law 17-4 added subsec. (k)(5).

The 2013 amendment by D.C. Law 19-282 rewrote (k)(1) and (k)(2).

The 2015 amendment by D.C. Law 20-155 rewrote (i)(3)(A).

Cross References

Hearing aid dealers and consumers, office of consumer protection, powers and duties, see § 28-4002.

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90-day) amendment of section, see § 1402(d) of the Fiscal Year 2001 Budget Support Emergency Act of 2000 (D.C. Act 13-376, July 24, 2000, 47 DCR 6574).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 1402(d) of the Fiscal Year 2001 Budget Support Congressional Review Emergency Act of 2000 (D.C. Act 13-438, October 20, 2000, 47 DCR 8740).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2032(d) of Fiscal Year 2006 Budget Support Emergency Act of 2005 (D.C. Act 16-168, July 26, 2005, 52 DCR 7667).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 2012(c) of the Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Support Emergency Act of 2014 (D.C. Act 20-377, July 14, 2014, 61 DCR 7598, 20 STAT 3696).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 2012(c) of the Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Support Congressional Review Emergency Act of 2014 (D.C. Act 20-449, October 10, 2014, 61 DCR 10915, 20 STAT 4188).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 2012(c) of the Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Support Second Congressional Review Emergency Act of 2014 (D.C. Act 20-566, January 9, 2015, 62 DCR 884, 21 STAT 541).

§ 28–3906. Consumer education and information.

(a) The Office of Consumer Protection is established within the Department. The Office of Consumer Protection shall:

(1) Inform the public and the business community of existing laws, regulations, and guidelines concerning consumer rights and standards of fair treatment;

(2) Coordinate consumer education programs with, and use consumer education programs to help carry out, the consumer protection programs of the Department, including enforcement options through the Department and the Office of the Attorney General and before the courts;

(2A) Develop a consumer education program to educate consumers about the appropriateness of video and computer games for certain age groups, which may include information on video and computer game rating systems and the manner in which parental controls can enhance the ability of parents to regulate their children’s access to video and computer games;

(3) Handle publicity for the Department concerning cases under § 28-3905 when the Director requests;

(4) Aid the Director in the formulation of consumer protection plans and recommend legislation and regulations related to consumer education;

(5) Cooperate with consumer-related agencies, groups, and individuals in the District of Columbia metropolitan area to improve consumer education efforts; and

(6) Perform the functions of the Department under § 28-3903(7) and (8) [§ 28-3903(a)(7) and (8)].

(b) The Chief of the Office of Consumer Protection shall be appointed by the Director.

(c) In fiscal year 2006, the Office of Consumer Protection shall focus on investigation and mediation in the areas of auto repair and home improvement.

(July 22, 1976, D.C. Law 1-76, § 7, 23 DCR 1185; enacted, Sept. 6, 1980, D.C. Law 3-85, § 3(a), (d), 27 DCR 2900; Mar. 8, 1991, D.C. Law 8-234,§ 2(g), 38 DCR 296; Oct. 20, 2005, D.C. Law 16-33, § 2032(e), 52 DCR 7503; Mar. 6, 2007, D.C. Law 16-218, § 2, 53 DCR 10209.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 28-3906.

1973 Ed., T. 28, Appx., § 7.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 28-3901.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 16-33, rewrote section, which had read:

“(a) The Office of Consumer Education and Information shall:

“(1) inform the public and the business community of existing laws, regulations and guidelines concerning consumer rights and standards of fair treatment;

“(2) coordinate consumer education programs with, and use consumer education programs to help carry out, the consumer protection programs of the Office;

“(3) handle publicity for the Office Department concerning cases under section 28-3905, when the Director requests;

“(4) aid the Director in the formulation of consumer protection plans and recommend legislation and regulations related to consumer education;

“(5) cooperate with consumer-related agencies, groups and individuals in the D.C. area to improve consumer education efforts.

“(b) The Chief of the Office of Consumer Education and Information shall be appointed by the Director.”

D.C. Law 16-218, in subsec. (a), added par. (2A).

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2032(e) of Fiscal Year 2006 Budget Support Emergency Act of 2005 (D.C. Act 16-168, July 26, 2005, 52 DCR 7667).

Editor’s Notes

The bracketed language has been inserted in (a)(3) to correct an error in D.C. Law 8-234.

§ 28–3907. Advisory Committee on Consumer Protection.

(a) There shall be an Advisory Committee on Consumer Protection consisting of 11 members appointed by the Mayor for three-year terms. The nongovernmental members, immediately prior to the effective date of this chapter, of the Advisory Committee on Consumer Affairs established in Organization Order No. 40 (C.O. 73-225; October 3, 1973), shall carry out their terms. No District Government employees shall be members. Four members shall be District merchants. Seven members shall be persons with demonstrated and current records of activity on behalf of consumers.

(b) The Committee shall:

(1) recommend priorities in, and, at the Committee’s discretion, carry out investigations and research, which concern broad, developing, or frequently encountered consumer problems;

(2) assist the Director as the Director may request;

(3) monitor the performance and organization of the Office, by quantitative and qualitative methods, and make recommendations and criticisms, based thereon; and

(4) cooperate with consumer-related agencies, groups, and individuals in the District and in the metropolitan area to improve city-wide and area-wide consumer protection and education efforts.

(c) The Committee shall elect one of its members as Chairperson and another as Vice-Chairperson, each to serve at the pleasure of the Committee, and such other officers and subcommittees as it determines.

(d) The Office shall provide staff support for the Advisory Committee. Appropriate expenses incurred by the Committee as a whole, or by individual members, may be paid when authorized by the Director.

(e) The Committee shall meet on call by the Chairperson as frequently as required to perform its duties, but no less than once each month, and it shall submit an annual report to the Mayor, Council, and the public.

(f) The Committee shall hold public hearings as deemed necessary.

(July 22, 1976, D.C. Law 1-76, § 8, 23 DCR 1185; Sept. 6, 1980, D.C. Law 3-85, § 3(a), (d), 27 DCR 2900; Apr. 9, 1997, D.C. Law 11-255, § 27(z), 44 DCR 1271.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 28-3907.

1973 Ed., T. 28, Appx., § 8.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 28-3901.

§ 28–3908. Severability.

If any provision of this chapter, or the application thereof to any person or circumstance, is held invalid, the remainder of this chapter, and the application of such provision to other persons not similarly situated or to other circumstances, shall not be affected.

(July 22, 1976, D.C. Law 1-76, § 9, 23 DCR 1185; enacted, Sept. 6, 1980, D.C. Law 3-85, § 3(a), (d), 27 DCR 2900.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 28-3908.

1973 Ed., T. 28, Appx., § 9.

§ [28-3909.01]. Attorney General Authority.

*NOTE: This section was created by temporary legislation that will expire on February 4, 2022.*

Notwithstanding any District law, the Attorney General for the District of Columbia may use the enforcement authority set forth at [§ 28-3909] against any merchant, including a utility provider, that violates any provisions of this act (D.C. Law 24-9).

(June 24, 2021, D.C. Law 24-9, § 307(g), 68 DCR 004824.)

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 days) creation of this section, see § 307(g) of Coronavirus Support Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 2021 (D.C. Act 24-96, June 7, 2021, 68 DCR 006025).

For temporary (90 days) creation of this section, see § 307(g) of Coronavirus Support Emergency Amendment Act of 2021 (D.C. Act 24-30, Mar. 17, 2021, 68 DCR 003101).

For temporary (90 days) creation of this section, see § 307(g) of Coronavirus Support Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 2020 (D.C. Act 23-328, June 8, 2020, 67 DCR 7598).

For temporary (90 days) creation of this section, see § 307(g) of Coronavirus Support Emergency Amendment Act of 2020 (D.C. Act 23-326, May 27, 2020, 67 DCR 7045).

Temporary Legislation

For temporary (225 days) creation of this section, see § 307(g) of Coronavirus Support Temporary Amendment Act of 2021 (D.C. Law 24-9, June 24, 2021, 68 DCR 004824).

§ 28–3910. Investigatory powers of Attorney General [for the District of Columbia].

(a) In the course of an investigation to determine whether to seek relief under section 28-3909, the Attorney General for the District of Columbia may subpoena witnesses, administer oaths, examine an individual under oath, and compel production of records, books, papers, contracts, and other documents. Information obtained under this section is not admissible in a later criminal proceeding against the person who provides the evidence.

(b) A subpoena issued pursuant to subsection (a) of this section shall be issued in accordance with [§  1-301.89c].

(Oct. 19, 2000, D.C. Law 13-172, § 1402(f), 47 DCR 6308; Oct. 22, 2015, D.C. Law 21-36, § 1036, 62 DCR 10905; July 17, 2018, D.C. Law 22-140, § 2(e), 65 DCR 5970.)

Effect of Amendments

The 2015 amendment by D.C. Law 21-36 designated the existing text as (a); and added (b).

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 2(b) of At-Risk Tenant Protection Clarifying Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 2018 (D.C. Act 22-486, Oct. 22, 2018, 65 DCR12042).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 2(b) of At-Risk Tenant Protection Clarifying Emergency Amendment Act of 2018 (D.C. Act 22-402, July 16, 2018, 65 DCR 7518).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 2(b) of At-Risk Tenant Protection Clarifying Emergency Amendment Act of 2017 (D.C. Act 22-164, Oct. 23, 2017, 64 DCR 10790).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 2(b) of At-Risk Tenant Protection Clarifying Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 2017 (D.C. Act 22-23, Mar. 27, 2017, 64 DCR 3065).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 2(b) of At-Risk Tenant Protection Clarifying Emergency Amendment Act of 2016 (D.C. Act 21-576, Dec. 19, 2016, 63 DCR 15695).

For temporary (90-day) addition of section, see § 1402(f) of the Fiscal Year 2001 Budget Support Emergency Act of 2000 (D.C. Act 13-376, July 24, 2000, 47 DCR 6574).

For temporary (90 day) addition of section, see § 1402(f) of the Fiscal Year 2001 Budget Support Congressional Review Emergency Act of 2000 (D.C. Act 13-438, October 20, 2000, 47 DCR 8740).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 1036 of the Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Support Emergency Act of 2015 (D.C. Act 21-127, July 27, 2015, 62 DCR 10201).

Temporary Legislation

For temporary (225 days) amendment of this section, see § 2(b) of At-Risk Tenant Protection Clarifying Temporary Amendment Act of 2018 (D.C. Law 22-172, Oct. 30, 2018, 65 DCR 9540).

For temporary (225 days) amendment of this section, see § 2(b) of At-Risk Tenant Protection Clarifying Temporary Amendment Act of 2017 (D.C. Law 22-45, Jan. 25, 2018, 64 DCR 12399).

For temporary (225 days) amendment of this section, see § 2(b) of At-Risk Tenant Protection Clarifying Temporary Amendment Act of 2016 (D.C. Law 21-271, Apr. 15, 2017, 64 DCR 944).

§ 28–3911. District of Columbia Consumer Protection Fund. [Repealed]

Repealed.

(Oct. 19, 2000, D.C. Law 13-172, § 1402(f), 47 DCR 6308; Mar. 8, 2007, D.C. Law 16-237, § 2(d), 54 DCR 393; Sept. 18, 2007, D.C. Law 17-20, § 3023, 54 DCR 7052; Jan. 23, 2008, D.C. Law 17-68, § 2, 54 DCR 11648; Mar. 3, 2010, D.C. Law 18-111, § 3002, 57 DCR 181; Sept. 14, 2011, D.C. Law 19-21, § 9003(a), 58 DCR 6226.)

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90-day) addition of section, see § 1402(f) of the Fiscal Year 2001 Budget Support Emergency Act of 2000 (D.C. Act 13-376, July 24, 2000, 47 DCR 6574).

For temporary (90 day) addition of section, see § 1402(f) of the Fiscal Year 2001 Budget Support Congressional Review Emergency Act of 2000 (D.C. Act 13-438, October 20, 2000, 47 DCR 8740).

For temporary (90 day) addition of section, see § 2(b) of Residential Water Lead Level Test Emergency Act of 2004 (D.C. Act 15-436, May 25, 2004, 51 DCR 5953).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2 of District of Columbia Consumer Protection Fund Emergency Amendment Act of 2007 (D.C. Act 17-64, June 28, 2007, 54 DCR 7046).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 3023 of Fiscal Year 2008 Budget Support Emergency Act of 2007 (D.C. Act 17-74, July 25, 2007, 54 DCR 7549).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2 of District of Columbia Consumer Protection Fund Congressional Review Emergency Act of 2007 (D.C. Act 17-138, October 17, 2007, 54 DCR 10729).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 3002 of Fiscal Year 2010 Budget Support Second Emergency Act of 2009 (D.C. Act 18-207, October 15, 2009, 56 DCR 8234).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 3002 of Fiscal Year Budget Support Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 2009 (D.C. Act 18-260, January 4, 2010, 57 DCR 345).

Temporary Legislation

For temporary (225 day) amendment of section, see § 2 of the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Fund Temporary Amendment Act of 2007 (D.C. Law 17-34, October 18, 2007, law notification 54 DCR 10704).

Short Title

Short title: Section 3001 of D.C. Law 18-111 provided that subtitle A of title III of the act may be cited as the “Consumer Protection Funds Act of 2009”.

Editor’s Notes

Section 9052(b) of D.C. Law 19-21 purported to amended this section which was repealed by section 9003(a) of Law 19-21.

§ 28–3912. Submissions to the Council.

The Department shall, in coordination with the Office of the Attorney General, submit 2 plans to the Council:

(1) A detailed plan for fiscal year 2006 on the steps that the Department shall take in providing consumer protection education in the District, including the dissemination of information regarding legal options through the Department and before the Office of the Attorney General and the Courts, to be submitted by September 1, 2005; and

(2) A plan to fully implement this subchapter in fiscal year 2007, including any recommended amendments to this subchapter, to be submitted by February 1, 2006, in anticipation of the fiscal year 2007 budget.

(Oct. 20, 2005, D.C. Law 16-33, § 2032(f), 52 DCR 7503.)

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 day) addition, see § 2032(f) of Fiscal Year 2006 Budget Support Emergency Act of 2005 (D.C. Act 16-168, July 26, 2005, 52 DCR 7667).

§ 28–3913. Rules.

The Mayor may issue rules necessary to carry out this chapter. Rules proposed pursuant to this section shall be submitted to the Council for a 45-day period of review, excluding Saturdays, Sundays, legal holidays, and days of Council recess. If the Council does not approve or disapprove the proposed rules, in whole or in part, by resolution, within this 45-day review period, the proposed rules shall be deemed disapproved.

(Oct. 20, 2005, D.C. Law 16-33, § 2032(f), 52 DCR 7503.)

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 day) addition, see § 2032(f) of Fiscal Year 2006 Budget Support Emergency Act of 2005 (D.C. Act 16-168, July 26, 2005, 52 DCR 7667).


Washington DC consumer law set to suck money from retailers AND manufacturers who sell to Washington DC Residents

My advice. STOP ALL SALES TO WASHINGTON DC RESIDENTS OR WASHINGTON DC ADDRESSES!

The letter below was received from a Georgia cycling store. The letter demands thousands of dollars for violating Washington DC Chapter 39. Consumer Protection Procedures. Allegedly the prices on the website prior to the sale price were higher than the Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price (MSRP). In Most states you can sell something for any price unless you have an agreement with the manufacturer to sell within a price range. (Sherman Anti-Trust Act and the Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price regulations.)

The letter is posted here with permission from Joe Elam of Habersham Bicycles. THANKS JOE!






The law firm is real, but the website for the firm is not finished. https://www.dcclg.com/

The organization the law firm is representing is also a one-person operation and is listed by different firms that monitor non-profits as questionable. http://www.i4tm.org/#page-top.

https://www.causeiq.com/organizations/institute-for-truth-in-marketing,473475721/

https://nonprofitlight.com/dc/washington/institute-for-truth-in-marketing-inc.

The products were purchased in three different sales and shipped to:

Jared Zecco

1629 K St.

Suite 300

Washington DC 20006

The letter is demanding $1500 for each violation of the Washington DC law, however the only penalty I can find in the statute says not exceeding $1000 per violation.

§ 28–3905. Complaint procedures.

(3)(A) Any person found to have executed a trade practice in violation of a law of the District within the jurisdiction of the Department may be liable for a civil penalty not exceeding $1,000 for each failure to adhere to a provision of an order described in subsection (f), (g), or (j) of this section, or a consent decree described in subsection (h) of this section.

However, if the seller is taken to court, then $1500 can be recovered.

(A)(i) Treble damages, or $1,500 per violation, whichever is greater, payable to the consumer;

Here is the problem. You will be sued in a DC court.

Do Something

Don’t Sell to DC online until you understand this law.

MORE COMING

What do you think? Leave a comment.

Copyright 2020 Recreation Law (720) 334 8529

If you like this let your friends know or post it on FB, Twitter or LinkedIn

If you are interested in having me, write your release, fill out this Information Form and Contract and send it to me.

Author: Outdoor Recreation Insurance, Risk Management and Law

http://summitmagicpublishing.com/book/Facebook Page: Outdoor Recreation & Adventure Travel Law

Email: Rec-law@recreation-law.com

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By Recreation Law    Rec-law@recreation-law.com    James H. Moss

#AdventureTourism, #AdventureTravelLaw, #AdventureTravelLawyer, #AttorneyatLaw, #Backpacking, #BicyclingLaw, #Camps, #ChallengeCourse, #ChallengeCourseLaw, #ChallengeCourseLawyer, #CyclingLaw, #FitnessLaw, #FitnessLawyer, #Hiking, #HumanPowered, #HumanPoweredRecreation, #IceClimbing, #JamesHMoss, #JimMoss, #Law, #Mountaineering, #Negligence, #OutdoorLaw, #OutdoorRecreationLaw, #OutsideLaw, #OutsideLawyer, #RecLaw, #Rec-Law, #RecLawBlog, #Rec-LawBlog, #RecLawyer, #RecreationalLawyer, #RecreationLaw, #RecreationLawBlog, #RecreationLawcom, #Recreation-Lawcom, #Recreation-Law.com, #RiskManagement, #RockClimbing, #RockClimbingLawyer, #RopesCourse, #RopesCourseLawyer, #SkiAreas, #Skiing, #SkiLaw, #Snowboarding, #SummerCamp, #Tourism, #TravelLaw, #YouthCamps, #ZipLineLawyer,

 


Rarely do you see recreation or release cases from the District of Columbia; in this case, the appellate court upheld the release for an injury in a gym

Plaintiff’s arguments about the release and attempt to invalidate the release by claiming gross negligence all failed.

Moore v. Waller, et al., 930 A.2d 176; 2007 D.C. App. LEXIS 476

State: District of Columbia, District of Columbia Court of Appeals

Plaintiff: Richard J. Moore

Defendant: Terrell Waller and Square 345 Limited Partnership T/A Grand Hyatt Hotel

Plaintiff Claims: negligence

Defendant Defenses: Release

Holding: for the defendant health club

Year: 2007

The plaintiff was a member of the exercise facility and had signed a release when he joined. One day while at the facility to exercise, he was asked by a kick boxing instructor to hold an Everlast body bag so the instructor could demonstrate kicks to the class. The plaintiff reluctantly did so.

The kick boxing instructor showed the plaintiff how to hold the bag. The instructor then kicked the bag five times in rapid succession. The plaintiff was out of breath after the demonstration and stated with irony that it was not hard to do.

A month after the class the plaintiff determined he had been injured from holding the bag and sued.

The defendants motioned for summary judgment with the trial court which was granted, and the plaintiff appealed.

Analysis: making sense of the law based on these facts.

The court stated that it did not often look at releases in this context. The court looked at Maryland and other states for their laws concerning releases as well as the release law in DC, which was mostly in other types of business contracts.

DC like most other states will not allow a release to stop claims for “intentional harms or for the more extreme forms of negligence, i.e., reckless, wanton, or gross [negligence].” The plaintiff did not argue the acts of the defendant were grossly negligent, but did argue the acts were reckless.

However, the court could find nothing in the pleadings that indicated the defendant’s actions were reckless. In fact, the pleadings found the instructors efforts to show the plaintiff how to hold the bag was for safety purposes and as such; safety is inconsistent with recklessness or gross negligence.

The appellate court also looked at the release itself and found it was clear and unambiguous.

…”exculpation must be spelled out with such clarity that the intent to negate the usual consequences of tortious conduct is made plain”; also recognizing that in most circumstances modern law “permit[s] a person to exculpate himself by contract from the legal consequences of his negligence”

The plaintiff also argued the release was written so broadly that it was written to cover reckless or gross negligence and as such should be thrown out. However, the court looked at the issue in a different way. Any clause in a release that attempts to limit the liability for gross negligence is not valid; however, that does not invalidate the entire release.

We disagree. “‘A better interpretation of the law is that any “term” in a contract which at-tempts to exempt a party from liability for gross negligence or wanton conduct is unenforceable, not the entire [contract].

This is the acceptable way under contract law to deal with clauses or sections that are invalid. However, many contracts have clauses that say if any clause is invalid only that clause can be thrown out; the entire contract is still valid.

DC recognizes that some releases can be void if they reach too far.

We, of course, would not enforce such a release if doing so would be against public policy. “An exculpatory clause [in a will] that excuses self-dealing [by the personal representative] or attempts to limit liability for breaches of duty committed in bad faith, intentionally, or with reckless indifference to the interest of the beneficiary, is generally considered to be against public policy.”)

However, releases found within health club agreements do not violate public policy.

However, we agree with the Maryland Court of Special Appeals and with numerous other courts which have held that it does not violate public policy to enforce exculpatory clauses contained in membership contracts of health clubs and fitness centers.

The appellate court upheld the decision of the trial court.

So Now What?

This decision does not leap with new information or ideas about releases. What is reassuring are two points. The first is releases are valid in DC. The second is when in doubt the court looked to Maryland, which has held that a release signed by a parent can stop a minor’s right to sue. See States that allow a parent to sign away a minor’s right to sue.

If you are interested in having me write your release, fill out this Information Form and Contract and send it to me.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

If you like this let your friends know or post it on FB, Twitter or LinkedIn

Author: Outdoor Recreation Insurance, Risk Management and Law

Copyright 2017 Recreation Law (720) Edit Law

Email: Rec-law@recreation-law.com

Google+: +Recreation

Twitter: RecreationLaw

Facebook: Rec.Law.Now

Facebook Page: Outdoor Recreation & Adventure Travel Law

Blog: http://www.recreation-law.com

Mobile Site: http://m.recreation-law.com

By Recreation Law           Rec-law@recreation-law.com     James H. Moss

#AdventureTourism, #AdventureTravelLaw, #AdventureTravelLawyer, #AttorneyatLaw, #Backpacking, #BicyclingLaw, #Camps, #ChallengeCourse, #ChallengeCourseLaw, #ChallengeCourseLawyer, #CyclingLaw, #FitnessLaw, #FitnessLawyer, #Hiking, #HumanPowered, #HumanPoweredRecreation, #IceClimbing, #JamesHMoss, #JimMoss, #Law, #Mountaineering, #Negligence, #OutdoorLaw, #OutdoorRecreationLaw, #OutsideLaw, #OutsideLawyer, #RecLaw, #Rec-Law, #RecLawBlog, #Rec-LawBlog, #RecLawyer, #RecreationalLawyer, #RecreationLaw, #RecreationLawBlog, #RecreationLawcom, #Recreation-Lawcom, #Recreation-Law.com, #RiskManagement, #RockClimbing, #RockClimbingLawyer, #RopesCourse, #RopesCourseLawyer, #SkiAreas, #Skiing, #SkiLaw, #Snowboarding, #SummerCamp, #Tourism, #TravelLaw, #YouthCamps, #ZipLineLawyer, gross negligence, fitness, exculpatory clauses, reckless, personal injury, public policy, membership, kick, summary judgment, unenforceable, guests, demonstration, intentionally, recklessness, attendance, affiliates, boxing, wanton, body bag, property loss, intentional torts, health club, bargaining, signing, exempt, waive, bag, waiver provisions, causes of action, own negligence, Washington DC. District of Columbia, DC, fitness center, health club,

 


Moore v. Waller, et al., 930 A.2d 176; 2007 D.C. App. LEXIS 476

Moore v. Waller, et al., 930 A.2d 176; 2007 D.C. App. LEXIS 476

Richard J. Moore, Appellant, v. Terrell Waller and Square 345 Limited Partnership T/A Grand Hyatt Hotel, Appellees.

No. 05-CV-695

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA COURT OF APPEALS

930 A.2d 176; 2007 D.C. App. LEXIS 476

June 20, 2006, Argued

August 2, 2007, Decided

PRIOR HISTORY:  [**1]

Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. (CA-1522-04). (Hon. Michael L. Rankin, Trial Judge).

COUNSEL: John P. Fatherree for appellant.

Terrell Waller, Pro se.

Rocco P. Porreco for appellee, Square 345 Limited Partnership.

JUDGES: Before GLICKMAN, KRAMER, and FISHER, Associate Judges.

OPINION BY: FISHER

OPINION

[*177]  FISHER, Associate Judge: Appellant Richard Moore claims that he was injured on February 26, 2001, while participating in a demonstration of kick boxing at Club Fitness, which is operated by the appellee, Square 345 Limited Partnership (hereinafter Grand Hyatt). Relying on a waiver and release of liability Moore signed when he joined the fitness center, the Superior Court granted summary judgment, first for Grand Hyatt and then for Terrell Waller, the instructor who allegedly injured Moore. We affirm.

I.

Plaintiff Moore alleged that he had gone to the fitness center on February 26, 2001, to exercise. Although “he was not participating in the kick boxing classes, the instructor [*178]  , defendant Waller, asked [Moore] to hold . . . a detached Everlast body bag, so [Mr.] Waller could demonstrate a kick to his class.” According to Mr. Moore, he “reluctantly agreed, saying to [Mr. Waller], ‘Not hard.’ Defendant  [**2] Waller showed [Mr. Moore] how to hold the bag, braced against his body, and then kicked the bag five times, in rapid succession, with great force.” He claims that when Waller finished, “he was out of breath from the strenuous effort, and commented with obvious sarcasm and irony, ‘That wasn’t hard, was it.'” Moore states that he “immediately felt trauma to his body,” felt “stiff and achy” the next day, and consulted a physician about one month later. Mr. Moore asserts that “[h]e has been diagnosed as having torn ligaments and tendons from the trauma of the injury, and may have neurological damage, as well.” The resulting limitations on his physical activity allegedly have diminished the quality of his life in specified ways.

Mr. Moore had joined the fitness center on January 16, 2001, signing a membership agreement and initialing that portion of the agreement that purports to be a waiver and release of liability.

Article V – WAIVER AND LIABILITY

Section 1. The Member hereby acknowledges that attendance at or use of the Club or participation in any of the Club’s activities or programs by such Member, including without limitation, the use of the Club’s equipment and facilities, . . . exercises  [**3] (including the use of the weights, cardiovascular equipment, and apparatus designed for exercising), [and] selection of exercise programs, methods, and types of equipment, . . . could cause injury to the Member or damage to the Member’s personal property. As a material consideration for the Club to enter into this Agreement, to grant membership privileges hereunder and to permit the Member and the Member’s guests to use the Club and its facilities, the Member, on its own behalf and on behalf of the Member’s guests, agrees to assume any and all liabilities associated with the personal injury, death, property loss or other damages which may result from or arise out of attendance at or use of the Club or participation in any of the Club’s programs or activities, notwithstanding any consultation on any exercise programs which may be provided by employees of the Club.

By signing this Agreement, the Member understands that the foregoing waiver of liability on its behalf and on the behalf of the Member’s guests will apply to any and all claims against the Club and/or its owners, shareholders, officers, directors, employees, agents or affiliates . . . for any such claims, demands, personal  [**4] injuries, costs, property loss or other damages resulting from or arising out of any of foregoing risks at the Club, the condominium or the associated premises.

The Member hereby, on behalf of itself and the Member’s heirs, executors, administrators, guests and assigns, fully and forever releases and discharges the Club and the Club affiliates, and each of them, from any and all claims, damages, demands, rights of action or causes of action, present or future, known or unknown, anticipated or unanticipated resulting from or arising out of the attendance at or use of the Club or their participation in any of the Club’s activities or programs by such Member, including those which arise out of the negligence of the Club and/or the Club and the Club affiliates from any and all liability for any loss, or theft of, or damage to personal property, including, without limitation, automobiles and the contents of lockers.

 [*179]  THE MEMBER, BY INITIALING BELOW, ACKNOWLEDGES THAT HE/SHE HAS CAREFULLY READ THIS WAIVER AND RELEASE AND FULLY UNDERSTANDS THAT IT IS A WAIVER AND RELEASE OF LIABILITY, AND ASSUMES THE RESPONSIBILITY TO INFORM HIS/HER GUESTS OF THE PROVISIONS OF THIS AGREEMENT.

If effective,  [**5] this provision waives and releases not only claims against the Club but also claims against its “employees [and] agents.” 1

1 We assume for purposes of analysis that the Grand Hyatt is responsible for the conduct of Mr. Waller at issue here, but we need not determine whether he was an employee or an independent contractor.

Ruling on Grand Hyatt’s motion for summary judgment, the trial court concluded:

The Waiver and Liability section of the contract . . . expresses a full and complete release of all liability for personal injury occurring in the fitness center. Moore signed an acknowledgment indicating that [he] had read and understood that he was releasing Grand Hyatt from all liability for personal injuries that he might sustain. Furthermore, there is no allegation of fraud or overreaching in the amended complaint. In the circumstances, the court finds that the waiver and release is valid and enforceable and is a complete defense for Grand Hyatt in this action.

The court later held “that the terms of the waiver . . . apply equally to defendant Terrell Waller….”

II.

This court has not often addressed the validity of exculpatory clauses in contracts. We have enforced them, however. For  [**6] example, “[i]t is well settled in this jurisdiction that a provision in a bailment contract limiting the bailee’s liability will be upheld in the absence of gross negligence, willful act, or fraud.” Houston v. Security Storage Co., 474 A.2d 143, 144 (D.C. 1984). Accord, Julius Garfinckel & Co. v. Firemen’s Insurance Co., 288 A.2d 662, 665 (D.C. 1972) (“gross negligence or willful misconduct”); Manhattan Co. v. Goldberg, 38 A.2d 172, 174 (D.C. 1944) (“a bailee may limit his liability except for gross negligence”). We recently considered such a clause contained in a home inspection contract and concluded that it would be sufficient to waive or limit liability for negligence. Carleton v. Winter, 901 A.2d 174, 181-82 (D.C. 2006). However, after surveying “leading authorities” and cases from other jurisdictions, we recognized that “courts have not generally enforced exculpatory clauses to the extent that they limited a party’s liability for gross negligence, recklessness or intentional torts.” Id. at 181. See also Wolf v. Ford, 335 Md. 525, 644 A.2d 522, 525 (Md. 1994) ( [HN1] “a party will not be permitted to excuse its liability for intentional harms or for the more extreme forms of negligence, i.e., reckless,  [**7] wanton, or gross”); Seigneur v. National Fitness Institute, Inc., 132 Md. App. 271, 752 A.2d 631, 638 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 2000) (exculpatory clause will not be enforced “when the party protected by the clause intentionally causes harm or engages in acts of reckless, wanton, or gross negligence”). In Carleton, the court remanded for further proceedings to determine whether the conduct of the defendants “was not just simple negligence, but rather gross negligence.” 901 A.2d at 182.

As Moore’s counsel conceded at oral argument, he does not claim that Waller intentionally or purposefully injured  [*180]  him. The complaint does allege reckless conduct, however, 2 and he argued to the trial court, as he does to us, that the fitness center could not exempt itself from liability for reckless or wanton behavior or gross negligence. Nevertheless, the defendants had moved for summary judgment, and  [HN2] “[m]ere conclusory allegations on the part of the non-moving party are insufficient to stave off the entry of summary judgment.” Musa v. Continental Insurance Co., 644 A.2d 999, 1002 (D.C. 1994); see also Super. Ct. Civ. R. 56 (e) (“the . . . response, by affidavits or as otherwise provided in this Rule, must set forth specific  [**8] facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial”). “‘[T]here is no issue for trial unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party.'” Brown v. George Washington Univ., 802 A.2d 382, 385 (D.C. 2002) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50, 106 S. Ct. 2505, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202 (1986)). “‘The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence . . . will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [non-moving party].'” LaPrade v. Rosinsky, 882 A.2d 192, 196 (D.C. 2005) (quoting Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 252).

2 In his second amended complaint, Moore alleged that “defendant Waller recklessly disregarded [his] duty of due care [and] acted with deliberate indifference to the likelihood that his action would injure the plaintiff. Defendant Waller’s reckless action was the direct and proximate cause of plaintiff’s injuries.” He also alleged that the Grand Hyatt was responsible for Waller’s actions.

Nothing Moore presented in opposition to summary judgment would be sufficient to prove gross negligence or reckless conduct. Indeed, in one of his affidavits Mr. Moore stated that “as I was shown by defendant  [**9] Waller exactly how to hold the body bag while he demonstrated his kick(s), the purpose of his directions as communicated to me as to how to hold the bag were plainly for safety.” Such concern for safety is inconsistent with recklessness or gross negligence. See generally In re Romansky, 825 A.2d 311, 316 (D.C. 2003) (defining “recklessness”); District of Columbia v. Walker, 689 A.2d 40, 44 (D.C. 1997) (defining “gross negligence” for purposes of D.C. Code § 2-412 (2001) (formerly D.C.Code § 1-1212 (1981)). Moreover, Moore did not allege that defendant Waller kicked an unprotected portion of his body. Nor did he proffer expert testimony suggesting that the demonstration was so hazardous that it was reckless to undertake it, even with the protection of the Everlast body bag.

Because there is no viable claim for gross negligence, recklessness, or an intentional tort, we turn to the question of whether this particular contractual provision is sufficient to bar claims for negligence. 3 Although this is a suit for personal [*181]  injury, not merely for economic damage, the same principles of law apply. See Wright v. Sony Pictures Entertainment, Inc., 394 F. Supp. 2d 27, 34 (D.D.C. 2005) (“by voluntarily  [**10] signing the Contestant Release Form, plaintiff waived his right to bring any claims for negligently caused personal injury”; applying District of Columbia law). This court has not previously considered the effect of an exculpatory clause in a membership agreement with a health club or fitness center, but many jurisdictions have done so. After surveying the legal landscape, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals concluded that most courts hold “that  [HN3] health clubs, in their membership agreements, may limit their liability for future negligence if they do so unambiguously.” Seigneur, 752 A.2d at 636. We have found the analysis in Seigneur to be very helpful.

3 Appellant’s brief explains that he “claims damages from Waller based upon negligent infliction of injury, and against Square 345 Limited Partnership based upon respondeat superior and upon apparent agency and authority, as well as negligent failure to properly select, train and supervise a person whose services were retained to provide lessons in an activity which would certainly be dangerous if not expertly and responsibly performed.” He later elaborates: “While kick boxing is an inherently dangerous activity, had the demonstration  [**11] been conducted in a responsible, non-negligent way, it would not have been dangerous.” The words “strict liability” appear under the caption of the second amended complaint, but appellant has not cited any statute or regulation that purports to impose strict liability on demonstrations of kick boxing, nor has he alleged the common law elements of strict liability in tort. See Word v. Potomac Electric Power Co., 742 A.2d 452, 459 (D.C. 1999). Neither has he proffered facts which would support such a theory. In sum, the waiver is sufficient to cover any theory of liability which is supported by more than conclusory allegations.

 [HN4] A fundamental requirement of any exculpatory provision is that it be clear and unambiguous. Maiatico v. Hot Shoppes, Inc., 109 U.S. App. D.C. 310, 312, 287 F.2d 349, 351 (1961) (“exculpation must be spelled out with such clarity that the intent to negate the usual consequences of tortious conduct is made plain”; also recognizing that in most circumstances modern law “permit[s] a person to exculpate himself by contract from the legal consequences of his negligence”). Cf. Adloo v. H.T. Brown Real Estate, Inc., 344 Md. 254, 686 A.2d 298, 305 (Md. 1996) (“Because it does not clearly,  [**12] unequivocally, specifically, and unmistakably express the parties’ intention to exculpate the respondent from liability resulting from its own negligence, the clause is insufficient for that purpose.”). The provision at issue here meets the requirement of clarity. Article V is entitled, in capital letters, “WAIVER AND LIABILITY.” The Article ends with a prominent “box” containing a sentence typed in capital letters. Appellant Moore initialed that box, verifying that he had “carefully read this waiver and release and fully understands that it is a waiver and release of liability . . . .” By accepting the terms of membership, Moore “agree[d] to assume any and all liabilities associated with the personal injury, death, property loss or other damages which may result from or arise out of attendance at or use of the Club or participation in any of the Club’s programs or activities . . . .” He understood that this waiver of liability would “apply to any and all claims against the Club and/or its owners, shareholders, officers, directors, employees, agents or affiliates . . . for any . . . personal injuries . . . resulting from or arising out of any of [the] foregoing risks at the Club .  [**13] . . .” He “release[d] and discharge[d] the Club . . . from any and all claims, damages, demands, rights of action or causes of action…, including those which arise out of the negligence of the Club . . . .” This release is conspicuous and unambiguous, and it is clearly recognizable as a release from liability. Moreover, the injuries alleged here were reasonably within the contemplation of the parties. “Because  [HN5] the parties expressed a clear intention to release liability and because that release clearly included liability for negligence, that intention should be enforced.” Anderson v. McOskar Enterprises, Inc., 712 N.W.2d 796, 801 (Minn. Ct. App. 2006) (health and fitness club). 4

4 Because this waiver expressly refers to “claims . . . which arise out of the negligence of the Club,” its effect is clear. We have held, however, that it is not always necessary to use the word “negligence” in order to relieve a party of liability for such conduct. See Princemont Construction Corp. v. Baltimore & Ohio R.R. Co. 131 A.2d 877, 878 (D.C. 1957) (“the terms of an indemnity agreement may be so broad and comprehensive that although it contains no express stipulation indemnifying against a party’s  [**14] own negligence, it accomplishes the same purpose”); see also Avant v. Community Hospital, 826 N.E.2d 7, 12 (Ind. Ct. App. 2005)( [HN6] “an exculpatory clause need not include the word ‘negligence’ so long as it conveys the concept specifically and explicitly through other language”).

 [*182]  Appellant protests that the waiver provisions are so broad that they could be construed to exempt the Club from liability for harm caused by intentional torts or by reckless or grossly negligent conduct. Because such provisions are unenforceable, he argues that the entire release is invalid. We disagree. “‘A better interpretation of the law is that  [HN7] any “term” in a contract which attempts to exempt a party from liability for gross negligence or wanton conduct is unenforceable, not the entire [contract].'” Anderson, 712 N.W.2d at 801 (quoting Wolfgang v. Mid-American Motorsports, Inc., 898 F. Supp. 783, 788 (D. Kan. 1995) (which in turn quotes RESTATEMENT (SECOND) OF CONTRACTS § 195(1) (1981) (“A term exempting a party from tort liability for harm caused intentionally or recklessly is unenforceable on grounds of public policy.” (emphasis added))). See Ellis v. James V. Hurson Associates, Inc., 565 A.2d 615, 617 (D.C. 1989)  [**15] (“The Restatement sets forth the relevant principles. Where less than all of an agreement is unenforceable on public policy grounds, a court may nevertheless enforce the rest of the agreement ‘in favor of a party who did not engage in serious misconduct.'” (quoting RESTATEMENT (SECOND) OF CONTRACTS § 184(1) (1981))).

Nor is Article V (the waiver and release) unenforceable due to unequal bargaining power, as Mr. Moore asserts. We do not suppose that the parties in fact had equal power, but Moore does not meet the criteria for invalidating a contract on the grounds he invokes. He does not invite our attention to any evidence that he objected to the waiver provision or attempted to bargain for different terms. Nor has he shown that the contract involved a necessary service.

 [HN8] Even though a contract is on a printed form and offered on a “take it or leave it” basis, those facts alone do not cause it to be an adhesion contract. There must be a showing that the parties were greatly disparate in bargaining power, that there was no opportunity for negotiation and that the services could not be obtained elsewhere.

Schlobohm v. Spa Petite, Inc., 326 N.W.2d 920, 924-25 (Minn. 1982) (emphasis in  [**16] original). “Health clubs do not provide essential services[,]” Shields v. Sta-Fit, Inc., 79 Wn. App. 584, 903 P.2d 525, 528 (Wash. Ct. App. 1995), and “[t]he Washington metropolitan area . . . is home to many exercise and fitness clubs.” Seigneur, 752 A.2d at 639 (rejecting argument that patron’s bargaining position was grossly disproportionate to that of the fitness club).

We, of course, would not enforce such a release if doing so would be against public policy. See Godette v. Estate of Cox, 592 A.2d 1028, 1034 (D.C. 1991) ( [HN9] “An exculpatory clause [in a will] that excuses self-dealing [by the personal representative] or attempts to limit liability for breaches of duty committed in bad faith, intentionally, or with reckless indifference to the interest of the beneficiary, is generally considered to be against public policy.”); George Washington Univ. v. Weintraub, 458 A.2d 43, 47 (D.C. 1983) (exculpatory clause in lease was ineffective to waive tenants’ rights under implied warranty of habitability); see also Wolf v. Ford, 335 Md. 525, 644 A.2d 522, 526 (Md. 1994) (public policy will not permit exculpatory agreements in certain transactions affecting the performance of a public service obligation or “so important [*183]   [**17] to the public good that an exculpatory clause would be patently offensive”). However, we agree with the Maryland Court of Special Appeals and with numerous other courts which have held that it does not violate public policy to enforce exculpatory clauses contained in membership contracts of health clubs and fitness centers. Seigneur, 752 A.2d at 640-41 (and cases cited therein); see also, e.g., Schlobohm, 326 N.W.2d at 926 (“the exculpatory clause in the contract before us was not against the public interest”); Ciofalo v. Vic Tanney Gyms, Inc., 10 N.Y.2d 294, 177 N.E.2d 925, 927, 220 N.Y.S.2d 962 (N.Y. 1961) (“there is no special legal relationship and no overriding public interest which demand that this contract provision, voluntarily entered into by competent parties, should be rendered ineffectual”); Massengill v. S.M.A.R.T. Sports Medicine Clinic, P.C., 996 P.2d 1132 (Wyo. 2000). 5

5 The Supreme Court of Wisconsin refused to enforce one such clause on grounds of public policy. Atkins v. Swimwest Family Fitness Center, 2005 WI 4, 277 Wis. 2d 303, 691 N.W.2d 334 (Wis. 2005). That decision was based on several factors, however, and we do not understand the court to have announced a categorical rule. See id. at 340-42 (waiver was “overly broad  [**18] and all-inclusive,” the word “negligence” was not included, the provision was not “sufficiently highlight[ed],” and there was “no opportunity to bargain”).

The trial court properly held that “the waiver and release is valid and enforceable and is a complete defense for Grand Hyatt [and Mr. Waller] in this action.” The judgment of the Superior Court is hereby

Affirmed.