Massachusetts has a very powerful consumer protection law in Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 93A (MGL 93A) that allows consumers to file a lawsuit against a business for unfair or deceptive business practices. MGL 93A allows the consumer (or other businesses in certain circumstances) to recover severe heightened penalties which are often referred to as double or treble damages plus attorney’s fees and costs. The statute requires the individual consumer to send a Demand Letter to the business — the business has thirty (30) days from the date the Demand Letter is mailed to respond. There are specific requirements for an effective 93A Demand Letter and Response to a 93A Demand Letter.
The 93 Demand Letter must:
- Be mailed or delivered to the business at least thirty (30) days before filing any court action. The 93A Demand Letter should be sent by certified or registered mail.
- Identify the person making the claim for unfair and deceptive business practice. Reasonable identification of the claimant includes the claimant’s full name and residential address.
- Describe the unfair or deceptive act or practice at issue in reasonable detail. This is essentially a brief factual account of what happened, when the alleged unfair and deceptive business conduct occurred. The 93A Demand Letter should also (though it’s not required) identify any specific laws or regulations the claimant alleges were violated by the business.
- Identify the damages suffered by the claimant. This includes a description of the money or property lost due to the business’ allegedly unfair or deceptive acts or practices. Generally, the claimant will need to include the cost to remedy the alleged unfair or deceptive business practice to assist in determining the claimant’s actual damages.
The Response to a 93A Demand Letter :
- MUST be received by the claimant within thirty (30) days of the date of mailing of the 93A Demand Letter. If you’ve received a 93A Demand Letter, keep the envelope with the postal service date stamped on it. For certified or registered mail, you can also check the United States Postal Service website (www.usps.com) for the date of mailing using the 16 digit parcel number. It is extremely important that the business owner contact one of the Boston Business Lawyers at The Jacobs Law immediately upon receiving a 93A Demand Letter. It makes it very difficult to perform valuable research into the claim when a business owner waits to contact an attorney until just a few days or a week before the deadline to respond. One of our Boston Business Lawyers will discuss the claimant’s allegations with you, research the claim and the claimant’s background, and draft and submit a timely response.
- SHOULD consider the importance of a settlement offer. In a response to an MGL 93A Demand Letter, a business can attempt to limit any damages that may ultimately be awarded to a claimant by making a settlement offer. If the claimant accepts the offer that the business is willing to pay, then the dispute will be resolved. However, if the claimant rejects the offer, and the court finds that the settlement offer was reasonable in relation to the injury / damages actually suffered by the claimant, then the statute specifically provides that the court can limit any recovery by the claimant to the settlement amount offered. However, if the claimant rejects the offer, but the court does not later find it was a reasonable settlement offer, then a claimant could recover double or triple the amount of actual damages (or twenty-five dollars, whichever is greater) plus attorney’s fees and costs.
- SHOULD make every effort to identify deficiencies in the 93A Demand Letter. As above, a 93A Demand Letter must comply to the requirements of the statute. The failure to do so can invalidate a 93A Demand Letter. A Boston Business Lawyer at The Jacobs Law can review an MGL 93A Demand Letter for compliance with the statutory requirements, and identify any deficiencies for inclusion in the business’ response.
The bottom line is that the assistance of an attorney can be invaluable in reviewing, advising and responding to an MGL 93A Demand Letter received by a business. If your business has received an MGL 93A Demand Letter, you should immediately contact one of the Boston Business Lawyers at The Jacobs Law!