Some laws – for example, consumer protection laws, civil rights laws or environmental protection laws – are considered socially beneficially. Enforcement of these laws helps more than just the person who has been wronged. Enforcement of these laws helps society as a whole.
Society is better off if businesses are not allowed to get away with cheating consumers. Stopping dishonest business practices not only helps consumers, it helps other businesses. Honest businesses are better off if unscrupulous businesses are punished. If unscrupulous businesses are allowed to keep the profits they make from ripping off consumers, honest businesses suffer a market disadvantage. To keep things just, unscrupulous businesses not only need to be stripped of any unfair profits, they also need to be punished for their dishonesty, so that they will think twice the next time they are tempted to rip off a consumer. Consumer protection laws are designed to meet these goals.
Because Congress and state legislatures recognize these facts, they have provided for a system of private Attorneys General for enforcement of consumer protection laws. In setting up a private Attorneys General system, Congress and state legislatures ensure that consumer protection laws are vigorously enforced by attorneys whose skills are up to the task. This goal is accomplished through fee and cost shifting statutes. Under these statutes, if a consumer prevails under a consumer protection law, the defendant must pay the fees and costs accrued by the plaintiff’s attorney at a rate that will attract skilled attorneys. By this system, the need for enforcement by clunky and inefficient regulatory agencies, paid for by taxpayer dollars, is greatly lessened or even eliminated.
Another consequence of consumer protection laws is that even smaller violations of law can be vigorously enforced. Lawmakers recognize that violations of consumer protection laws often result in only a modest sum lost by the consumer, but lawmakers have decided that these laws should be enforced anyway because these laws are socially beneficially. Courts generally have no problem with making unscrupulous businesses pay much more in attorney fees to the consumer’s attorney than the actual out-of-pocket loss suffered by the consumer. The New Mexico Supreme Court has stated “New Mexico policy strongly supports the resolution of consumer claims, regardless of the amount of damages alleged.” Fiser v. Dell Computer Corporation, 2008-NMSC-46, & 9. The New Mexico Supreme Court has also stated, “It is not hyperbole or exaggeration to say that it is a fundamental principle of justice in New Mexico that corporations may not tailor the laws that our legislature has enacted in order to shield themselves from the potential claims of consumers.@ Id. at ¶ 21.
Treinen Law Office is committed to the vigorous enforcement of consumer protection laws. We work hard for consumers – whether the out-of-pocket loss is big or small – because that is the right thing to do. If you have been ripped off by an unscrupulous business, we would be happy to talk to you to see if we can help.