African Communities Together Supports
Modernizing New York’s Deceptive Practices Act (GBL § 349)
African Communities Together (ACT) applauds Senator Leroy Comrie and Assembly Member Yuh-Line Niou for introducing S2407 and A679, respectively, to modernize the Deceptive Practices Act (GBL § 349) and provide protections against unfair and unlawful acts. Shamefully, the consumer protections that New York currently provides lags behind general business statutes in at least 39 other states.
As an organization that serves New York's large African immigrant population, which is often exploited by deceptive immigration service providers and unscrupulous merchants, ACT witnesses firsthand how immigrant consumers are often the targets of bad actors because of their perceived vulnerabilities. From phone card scams and illegal debt collection practices, to questionable employment agencies and unfair immigration bail bonds contracts, immigrants contend with various unfair, unlawful, deceptive, and abusive acts and practices.
The proposed changes to GBL § 349 which include:
- expanding prohibited acts to include unfair and unlawful;
- eliminating the judicial requirement of consumer-oriented conduct;
- making attorney’s fees mandatory, not discretionary, and including costs;
- defining "person" broadly and codifying current New York organizational and third-party standing; and
- permitting class actions for actual, statutory and punitive damages
would provide members of the immigrant community with the ability to pursue legal action against practices that are not only deceptive, but are likely to cause substantial injury. Additionally, A679 and S2407 would provide standing for non-profit organizations, such as ACT, to represent the interests of immigrant consumers, enabling more vigorous defense of consumer rights. Lastly, the bills would provide significant deterrence to dishonest businesses that would seek to take advantage of vulnerable immigrant consumers.
The need for broader protection is particularly pressing because of the life altering consequences that can result from unfair, unlawful, deceptive, and abusive acts and practices in the immigration context. As such, ACT welcomes the expansion of protections that A679 and S2407 would provide to New York’s immigrant consumers and encourages all members of the Assembly and Senate to support these bills.
African Communities Together is an organization of African immigrants fighting for civil rights, opportunity, and a better life for our families here in the U.S. and worldwide. ACT empowers African immigrants to integrate socially, get ahead economically, and engage civically by connecting African immigrants to critical services, helping Africans develop as leaders, and organizing our communities on the issues that matter. Learn more at: http://www.africans.us/.