New Hampshire’s primary consumer protection law, “Regulation of Business Practices for Consumer Protection,” is commonly known as the Consumer Protection Act (RSA 358-A). The New Hampshire Consumer Protection Act prohibits the use of any unfair or deceptive act or practice or any unfair method of competition in trade or commerce in New Hampshire. The state law specifically identifies the following practices as unfair or deceptive:
- Claiming that goods are new or original when they are used, secondhand, deteriorated, reconditioned or altered.
- Claiming that goods or services have certain characteristics, ingredients, uses, benefits or qualities, or certain sponsorship or approval when they really do not have such, or that a person has a certain sponsorship, approval, status, affiliation or connection that he or she really does not have.
- Falsifying the place of origin of goods or services.
- Passing off goods or services as someone else’s.
- Disparaging another business’ goods or services by false or misleading statements.
- Advertising goods or services with the intent not to sell them as advertised or failing to have a reasonable supply of goods or services provided on hand (unless the advertisement specifically says that quantities are limited).
- Making false or misleading statements about the existence of, reasons for, or amount of price reductions.
- Conducting “going out of business sales” which last more than 60 days or which are held more than once every two years by the same owners of the business.
- Selling gift certificates for $100.00 or less that have expiration dates. (This does not apply to gift certificates or coupons that are given away.)
- Dormancy fees, latency fees, or any other administrative fees or service charges that have the effect of reducing the total amount for which the holder may redeem a gift certificate are prohibited. (Does not apply to season passes.)
The above list provides examples of deceptive acts and is not an exhaustive list. In addition, some entities are “exempt” from the jurisdiction of the state court regarding consumer protection statutes violations so complaints must be filed with the entities regulating agency. For example, mortgage servicers are regulated by the NH Banking Department, so any complaint against a mortgage servicer regarding violation of NH Consumer Protection statute must be filed with the NH Banking Department.
How to file a Complaint in NH Courts
If you feel a business has violated the Consumer Protection Act, you may file a lawsuit seeking damages in NH state courts. If the court finds a violation, you may be entitled to an award for actual damages, statutory damages of $1,000 and payment of your attorney’s fees. If the court finds a violation was willful, you may be entitled to double or treble damages.
How to file a Complaint with Attorney General’s Office
Alternatively, or in addition to a state court complaint, you may file a complaint with the Attorney General’s office. Complaints are read and reviewed in the order in which they are received by the Consumer Protection and Antitrust Bureau. The bureau responds to complaints as quickly as possible. Information about how to file a complaint and the complaint review process can be found here. If the bureau initiates an action against the business, it initiates the investigation and complaint on its own behalf and not as your attorney.
The New Hampshire Attorney General’s office provides a Consumer Sourcebook as a comprehensive guide with useful links to the following:
- General information about the laws that apply to a variety of consumer transactions.
- Examples of how the law might apply to a situation.
- Points to keep in mind if you find yourself in a variety of circumstances.
- Ideas for where to turn for more help.
NH Debt Collection Law
Debt collection practices in New Hampshire are governed by both state statute and federal law: The New Hampshire’s Unfair, Deceptive or Unreasonable Collection Practices Act (RSA 358-C); and the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (15 U.S.C. § 1692-1695.)
Both are designed to instruct debt collectors as well as consumers as to the limits of collection practices, while protecting consumers from abusive debt collection practices. The laws are also in place to provide consumers an avenue for recourse in disputing a claim.
Both the state statute and federal act provide illustrative examples, and expressly allow consumers to sue debt collectors for violations of pertinent statutory provisions.
Under the FDCPA, a debt collector must always:
- Identify themselves and notify the consumer that any information obtained will be used to effect collection of the debt.
- Give the name and address of the original creditor
- Notify the consumer of their right to dispute the debt
- Provide verification of the debt within 30 days of request
If you believe your rights have been violated under any of these laws, consulting with an attorney who regularly handles Consumer Protection cases can make all the difference. The Lawyer Referral Service of the New Hampshire Bar Association can refer you to the right one, at no cost to you. Call 603-229-0002 or submit an online request form.