Consumer Fraud

Arizona's Consumer Fraud Act

Arizona's Consumer Fraud Act, A.R.S. 44-1521 et seq., makes it unlawful for a seller to engage in any deception, deceptive or unfair act or practice, false statement, false pretense, false promise, misrepresentation, or concealment or omission of any material fact, by a seller or advertiser in connection with the sale or advertisement of any merchandise. See A.R.S. § 44-1522(A); see also Sellinger v. Freeway Mobile Home Sales, Inc., 110 Ariz. 573, 575-76, 521 P.2d 1119, 1121-22 (1974) (holding that a private cause of action exists against a person who violated the Act); Dunlap v. Jimmy GMC of Tucson, Inc., 136 Ariz. 338, 342, 344, 666 P.2d 83, 87, 89 (Ct. App. 1983).

The statute of limitation for consumer fraud is one year.  That means private actions for violation of Arizona's Consumer Fraud Act must be brought within one (1) year from the date the claim arises.

To establish a claim for consumer fraud, a plaintiff must prove the following elements by a preponderance of the evidence: 1) the defendant engaged in deception, used a deceptive act or practice, fraud, or false pretense, made a false promise or misrepresentation, or concealed, suppressed or omitted a material fact in connection with the sale or advertisement of merchandise; 2) the defendant intended that others rely upon the defendant's unlawful practice; 3) the plaintiff suffered damages as a result of relying on the defendant's unlawful practice; and 4) the amount of plaintiff's damages.

A claim for consumer fraud contains fewer elements to prove than does common law fraud.  Most notably, consumer fraud does not require a showing that the reliance by the consumer was reasonable.   Moreover, consumer fraud has a lower burden of proof than common law fraud, which must be shown by clear and convincing evidence.  The reason for this is that the purpose of the Act is remedial – i.e. it is intended to provide a remedy for injured consumers who are often times the victims of disproportionate bargaining power.  

Under the statute, violators are liable for a consumer's actual damages, as well as punitive damages.  In addition, violators whose conduct is found to have been willful may be subject to civil penalties of up to ten thousand dollars per violation.  See A.R.S. 44-1531(A)