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Served an FDUTPA Subpoena? Now What?

October 27, 2020
Est read time: 3 minutes

What to Do When Served an AG Subpoena Due to Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUTPA)

Being served with an Attorney General investigative subpoena pursuant to Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUTPA) can be intimidating. While your mind might be racing about why your business was selected or what caused the situation, we recommend turning your focus to the next step of preparing an effective response.

The advice of experienced FDUTPA attorneys is recommended to prepare a response to the Attorney General's investigative subpoena to avoid further regulatory action or a civil suit against your business or even you personally.

Remember, just because you received a subpoena does not mean a complaint has been filed.

A ‘subpoena duces tecum’ is the method by which the Attorney General’s Office can gather information during an investigation. After its investigation, the Attorney General’s Office may decide to pursue further regulatory action. If it is decided no violations occurred, the investigation ends. If the Attorney General’s office believes violations did occur, a further civil action may be brought against you. 

Purpose of FDUTPA

The FDUTPA is intended to protect the consumer public, in part by providing a civil remedy to consumers who have been deceived. The act specifically prohibits “Unfair methods of competition, unconscionable acts or practices, and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of any trade or commerce.”

The law is often used to bring claims for things like false advertising and odometer tampering but is broad enough to encompass a huge number of business activities.

A consumer may sue a business or tradesman and be awarded damages if that business or tradesman hurt them financially by way of:

  • A lie
  • Misrepresentation
  • Deception

All that an aggrieved consumer must prove is that they were deceived and that they suffered a loss as a result.

The rule may seem vague, but it is interpreted in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission Act, including the interpretations of the Commission, and Federal case law. Therefore, it is a complex body of law, and it is advisable to retain legal counsel to evaluate the merits of a claim.

Penalties Assessed Under Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUTPA)

Using your best efforts to adequately respond to the Attorney General's investigation subpoena is crucial. A person can be held liable under Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act if he or she is found to:

  • Give evasive answers
  • Present fraudulent materials
  • Knowingly conceal relevant information
  • Prevent compliance with responding to the subpoena

Therefore, when responding to these types of inquiries it is critical to make a good faith effort to produce what is sought. Again, the advice of experienced counsel can help you navigate this process.

If the consumer, or the Attorney General’s office suing on their behalf, successfully proves a claim under the act, they may become eligible for not only compensation, to repair the losses they suffered, but also the payment of their attorney’s fees.

A person can be held liable for:

  • A $5,000 civil penalty
  • Attorney’s fees
  • Litigation costs

Penalties for Violating Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUTPA)

The potential civil penalties for someone who willfully violates the FDUTPA can include severe penalties, which may include:

  • A civil penalty up to $10,000 for each violation
  • Attorney’s fees
  • Costs

The civil penalty of $10,000 can be increased up to $15,000 for violations involving senior citizens, persons with disabilities, military servicemembers, or the spouse or dependent child of a military servicemember.

A violation is “willful” when the person knew or should have known that his or her conduct was unfair or deceptive or prohibited by the FDUTPA. Having the assistance of an attorney in responding to an investigative subpoena can be important in how your case is ultimately resolved and whether, or to what degree, penalties are imposed.

Defending Yourself Under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUTPA)

A lawsuit is not a sentence. You can walk away from a lawsuit with your professional reputation and your finances intact. It starts with taking the right steps to mount an effective defense. Many litigants have come off worse than they should have because they failed to promptly call a good lawyer.

As a civil defendant, a business, or professional sued under the FDUTPA still has a right to defend themselves, and to a presumption of innocence until a charge is proven.

If you or your business receives court documents relating to the FDUTPA, it is crucial to be defended by a lawyer with experience in Florida civil practice.

Need Legal Help? Let's Talk

Contact the law offices of Howell, Buchan & Strong, Attorneys at Law for your free consultation at any one of our locations:

Orlando (407) 717-1773 |Tallahassee (850) 877-7776 | Tampa (813) 833-6726 | Sarasota (941) 779-4348

Florida Health Care License Attorneys
We represent clients in FDUTPA cases.
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