It’s called “Senate Bill 5” and, if successful, it will set back consumer rights in Missouri by a half century. No, my hair is not on fire and the sky is not falling. Nor am I being over-dramatic. The Missouri Merchandising Practices Act (MPA) was enacted into law 50 years ago. It was designed to “level the playing field” between consumer victims and the dishonest businesses who cheated them. In essence, the MPA was the antidote to “caveat emptor.”
In fact, the MPA has developed into one of the strongest consumer protection statutes in the country. What this means is that it’s harder for businesses to cheat consumers in Missouri than almost anywhere else. Why would this be a problem for honest businesses? Let’s put it another way . . . how often do people complain when they are treated fairly and honestly by a company? Presumably, the new Missouri legislature thinks they (YOU) complain too much. Here is the language the legislature is thinking about adding to the MPA:
Section 407.025 shall not apply to actions or transactions otherwise permitted, approved, or regulated by the Federal Trade Commission or any other regulatory agency acting under statutory authority of this state or the United States.
In other words, any business that is regulated by a federal or state agency can no longer be sued under the MPA. Ever buy a car? Car sales are regulated by the Missouri Department of Revenue. Therefore, all car dealership can no longer be sued for defrauding consumers. Ever remodel your house? Most remodeling projects require permits, which are issued by municipal housing authorities (i.e., state agencies). Ever complain about cell phone service? Your cable bill? A dishonored warranty? A miscalculated lease payment? A student loan? Ever been suckered into buying a timeshare? All of these services are in some way “regulated” by a federal or state agency. Under the new legislation, you can STILL complain, you just can’t bring a consumer fraud claim. In fact, it would be harder to think of a company that you can sue under the proposed language than coming up with a company that can’t be sued.
Even if you sincerely believe that “lawsuits and trial lawyers” have hindered economic growth, has anyone ever once heard a complaint about “too many consumer fraud lawsuits” being filed? It’s time to draw a line in the sand and let the representatives know this legislation goes to far! Call your state representative and state senator today, and let them know that Senate Bill 5 must be defeated at all costs.