The Virginia Consumer Protection Act is a Virginia law designed to protect consumers against fraudulent and deceptive business practices. In situations where it applies, defrauded consumers won’t be limited to suing for fraud; they will be entitled to pursue the additional remedies allowed by the VCPA, such as reimbursement of legal fees and–if the deception was willful–triple damages. The statute’s application, however, is limited to “consumer transactions.” What are those? According to the official statutory definition, “consumer transaction” means:
- The advertisement, sale, lease, license or offering for sale, lease or license, of goods or services to be used primarily for personal, family or household purposes;
- Transactions involving the advertisement, offer or sale to an individual of a business opportunity that requires both his expenditure of money or property and his personal services on a continuing basis and in which he has not been previously engaged;
- Transactions involving the advertisement, offer or sale to an individual of goods or services relating to the individual’s finding or obtaining employment;
- A layaway agreement, whereby part or all of the price of goods is payable in one or more payments subsequent to the making of the layaway agreement and the supplier retains possession of the goods and bears the risk of their loss or damage until the goods are paid in full according to the layaway agreement; and
- Transactions involving the advertisement, sale, lease, or license, or the offering for sale, lease or license, of goods or services to a church or other religious body.
(See Va. Code § 59.1-198). The most common application of the VCPA is under the first part of the definition: “goods or services to be used primarily for personal, family or household purposes.” Does that mean that every contract to make or sell a personal or household item will be subject to the VCPA, regardless of the identity of the parties to the contract? The Virginia Supreme Court hasn’t yet spoken to this issue, but in a recent ruling out of Fairfax Circuit Court, the court said no.