Business Entities Have Standing to Bring Claims Under the FDUTPA
The Fourth District Court of Appeals recently held that a business entity does not have to be a “consumer” in order to have standing to bring a claim under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (“FDUTPA”). In Caribbean Cruise Line, Inc. v. Better Business Bureau of Palm Beach County, Inc., -- So. 3d --, 2015 WL 3480114 (Fla. 4th DCA 2015), Caribbean Cruise brought a defamation and FDUTPA action against the Better Business Bureau (“BBB”) after receiving an “F” grade from BBB. The trial court granted BBB’s motion to dismiss on both counts, finding as it related to the FDUTPA claim the BBB was not a “consumer” under the statute and therefore had no standing to sue. On appeal, the 4th DCA reviewed the 2001 amendment to Florida Statute Section 501.211(2) which changed the language “brought by a consumer” to “brought by a person” and Section 501.203(7) which changed the definition of “consumer” to include a “business” and “commercial entity”. Also, because there was an absence of state court decisions, the 4th examined the split of Florida district court opinions on the issue and found the decision of Kelly v. Palmer, Reifler, & Assoc., P.A., 681 F. Supp. 2d 1356, 1372-73 (S.D. Fla. 2010) the most persuasive. Following this review, the 4th DCA concluded that an entity does not have to be a consumer in order to have standing to bring a FDUTPA claim. The 4th DCA did note, however, that a claimant will still have to prove that there was an injury or detriment to consumers in order to satisfy all of the elements of a FDUTPA claim, citing to the Florida Supreme Court decision of PNR, Inc. v. Beacon Prop. Mgmt, Inc., 842 So. 2d 773, 777 (Fla. 2003).
Importance of the decision: this is the first state appellate court case to hold that you do no have to be a “consumer” to bring a FDUTPA claim following the 2001 amendment to the statute. This decision will now allow business entities to bring FDUTPA claims.