Reforms to California's Unfair Competition Law Alter Litigation Landscape
June 27, 2008
While all 50 states have some form of unfair and deceptive trade practices statute, California’s Unfair Competition Law, Business and Professions Code Section 17200 et seq. (the “UCL”), was unique in that it permitted anyone to bring a claim as a “private attorney general” on behalf of the “general public”—regardless of whether the plaintiff himself had actually been affected by the challenged conduct. Thus, a plaintiff who had never done any business with the defendant, seen the defendant’s advertising or used the defendant’s products or services could pursue a UCL claim on a quasiclass-action basis without having traditional standing or satisfying any of the due process requirements for class action cases. Not surprisingly, California became the preferredforum for consumer class action litigation in large part because of the UCL; in some cases, plaintiffs’ law firms went so far as to file UCL claims naming themselves as the plaintiffs.