Every now and then, some Hoosiers find themselves dealing with debt or financial loss from an unscrupulous company, contractor or salesperson. To both prevent and remedy such unscrupulous behavior, Indiana has enacted numerous consumer protection statutes. This article addresses just a few.
Home Improvement Contracts Act — Indiana’s Home Improvement Contracts Act is designed to protect Hoosiers from home improvement scams.
There are numerous reports of homeowners being victimized by contractors who fail to complete a home improvement project or bring gouged. This act is intended to provide a tool for aggrieved homeowners to pursue a cause of action against such contractors.
The act also spells out what is required to be included in a contract for a Home Improvement Contract to be valid in Indiana. It also allows for a homeowner to recover up to treble damages (3 times actual damages) for a violation of the act in addition to reasonable attorney fees.
Home Solicitation Sales Act — Another statute intended to protect Hoosiers is Indiana’s Home Solicitation Sales Act. This law is intended to aid Hoosiers who find themselves pressured into signing a contract for some service or product by traveling salespeople. This law not only allows consumers to possibly cancel the contract, but also could allow them to recover any money already paid. The window to cancel such consumer transactions, however, is very narrow. Because of this narrow window — three days — the law requires the supplier to give the consumer written notice of the right to cancel and how to effectively give such notice. Most significantly, the act provides possible penalties for a supplier should he or she fail to comply with Indiana’s Home Solicitation Sales Act. These penalties could include up to treble damages and reasonable attorney fees.
Deceptive Consumer Sales Act — Indiana’s Deceptive Consumer Sales Act is a very complex law, but at its heart it is intended to protect Hoosiers from unfair and deceptive actions in any consumer transaction. It gives consumers the power to sue suppliers who engage in deceptive actions.
Whether or not an action is deceptive is fact-sensitive. However, the law lists numerous things which are considered deceptive or unfair. If an action is considered deceptive or unfair, then a consumer can request that the law cure the problem. If a cure is accomplished in a reasonable time, that is the end of the matter. However, if either the defect is intentional, or the supplier does not supply a remedy to the problem, then the consumer can pursue a claim under the law.
Once again, the remedies available could include the consumer recovering up to treble damages and reasonable attorney fees.
In summary, Indiana consumers should keep in mind that there are many consumer protection laws in place besides the three discussed in this article. Whether an act can provide a remedy to a consumer is very fact-sensitive. For this reason, it is recommended that an aggrieved consumer speak with an attorney to determine their rights under any of Indiana’s consumer protection laws.
By Scott P. Wyatt, Member, Altman, Poindexter & Wyatt