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What Is an Unfair Competition Lawsuit?

Unfair competition lawsuits against businesses have risen in recent years. With every lawsuit, the definition of what exactly is "unfair competition" expands. Common examples of business practices resulting in unfair competition lawsuits include:

  • Misrepresentations to consumers
  • Discriminatory treatment of consumers
  • Advertisements expressing hostile treatment of competitors
  • Unreasonable "no-compete" clauses in employment contracts

What Constitutes Unfair Competition?

Federal and state laws address unfair competition differently:

Federal Unfair Competition Laws

Under federal law, a business practice is unfair "when it offends an established public policy or when the practice is immoral, unethical, oppressive, unscrupulous or substantially injurious to consumers." 

State Unfair Competition Laws

Many states' unfair competition laws are considered very "plaintiff friendly" in that just about any business action can be considered unfair competition. Consequently, many state courts have moved toward a "rule of reason" analysis. Under this framework, the motives of the alleged wrongdoer and the utility of their conduct are weighed against the gravity of the harm to the alleged victim. 

Can I Sue a Business for Unfair Competition?

If you believe you are the victim of unfair competition, you can sue the company directly, and get them to:

  • Pay monetary damages for their false or slanderous representations
  • Refund any revenue resulting from the alleged unfair business practice
  • Cease performing the unfair business practices
  • Pay substantial government fines and penalties

Do I Need an Attorney Experienced in Unfair Competition?

If you believe that someone has employed unfair business practices to your detriment, you should probably speak to an attorney. An experienced unfair competition lawyer will help explain the complex and vague nature of unfair competition laws, and inform you of your legal rights as well as preserve any possible legal remedies you may have. If your business has been accused of unfair competition, you should speak to a lawyer immediately.

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 06-27-2018 10:30 PM PDT

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