Private Actions, Public Benefits
Private LitigationAids Public Enforcement of Consumer Protection Laws
September 20, 2013 - When functioning effectively, private and public action form an effective, complementary enforcement system that provides multiple levels of remedies for consumers. Private lawsuits often provide relief to consumers who have been defrauded or mistreated, while public actions provide both relief to consumers and result in systemic changes that prevent future abuses. State officials have acknowledged that private litigation-particularly class action litigation-is an essential tool that complements their enforcement work.
However, business practices limiting the rights of consumers, coupled with recent Supreme Court decisions that have given businesses significant latitude to use such practices, threaten the ability of private actions to deliver compensation to consumers. This report reviews four examples in which private actions seeking damages for harms caused by violations of consumer protection laws were mirrored by successful litigation by state attorneys general or other public entities. Read the report.