The Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA)
The Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA) prohibits unfair competition and unfair and deceptive acts. Initially adopted in 1973, CUTPA has been modified by the state legislature. The Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) has jurisdiction over CUPTA, but it is most commonly used as a private right of action.
The law states that any person who suffers a measurable loss of money or property as a result of an unfair or deceptive act prohibited by CUTPA may bring an action to recover that loss.
In this context, the term "person" is defined as "a natural person, corporation, Limited Liability Company, trust, partnership, incorporated or unincorporated association, and any other legal entity."
CUTPA specifies certain acts or practices as violations. For example, any violation of the Home Improvement Act is deemed to violate CUTPA, and the Department of Consumer Protection has issued regulations that define types of unfair trade practices.
Unfair or deceptive acts do not need to be explicitly prohibited in CUPTA for a person or DCP to bring action against a company.
DCP’s Authority Under CUTPA
CUTPA authorizes the Department of Consumer Protection to investigate complaints. The Commissioner may issue subpoenas, administer oaths, and conduct hearings. Further, the Commissioner and their representatives have the authority to:
- Enter and investigate any establishment at reasonable times;
- Check invoices and records;
- Have access to and copy documents;
- Execute investigative demands; and,
- Take certain other investigatory actions.
If the Commissioner has reason to believe that a person or business has violated CUTPA, they may conduct a hearing after giving notice that states the charges. Testimony must be taken under oath. The Commissioner has the power to issue subpoenas to compel the appearance of witnesses or the production of documents (CGS § 42-110d).
If someone wishes to file a complaint with the Department of Consumer Protection, they should follow our complaint process outlined at www.ct.gov/dcp/complaint.
CUTPA Actions and Penalties
If after the hearing, the Commissioner concludes that a violation has occurred, they must state in writing their findings of fact, and are authorized by law to issue certain penalties, and enter into settlement agreements.
The Commissioner of Consumer Protection and the Connecticut Attorney General may seek temporary restraining orders or temporary or permanent injunctive relief. The Commissioner’s order may be appealed to the Superior Court under the Uniform Administrative Procedure Act.
Courts may issue restraining orders; award actual and punitive damages, costs, and reasonable attorneys’ fees; and impose civil penalties of up to $5,000 for willful violations and $25,000 for violation of a restraining order.
While courts have discretionary authority to award punitive damages for violations of CUTPA, the act does not establish specific circumstances under which punitive damages are to be awarded.
Someone who believes they have suffered a measurable loss of money or property because of a CUTPA violation may sue to recover actual damages.