Colorado State Representative Matt Soper (R-Delta) sat down with Montrose Business Times freelance writer Gunnison Clamp for a conversation about Colorado HB23-1192, which would broaden consumer protections against businesses acting deceptively.
Soper has been outspoken about a part of the bill which would amend Colorado’s Consumer Protection Act.
He believes the bill, as it stands, open businesses to potentially frivolous lawsuits.
Soper, in the interview, offered advice to business owners on avoiding lawsuits should the bill pass.
Supporters of the bill argue that Colorado has lagged behind in recent years in offering better protections to the consumer. Under Colorado law, unless a person who has been deceived or cheated can also prove that a business deceptive acts have a “significant impact on the public,” then they don’t have protections under the current law’.
The requirement in the bill about ‘significant impact on the public’ also potentially protects businesses when they target specific consumers or specific groups of consumers, proponents of the bill argue.
The Colorado Consumer Protection Act also requires consumers show businesses “knowingly and recklessly” engaged in unlawful business practices, lhat part would change under this new bill, as well.
The bill has passed the Colorado House of Representatives 41-21, and sits in deliberation in the Colorado State Senate.
Gunnison: We’re looking for what you thought of House Bill 1192, and its impact on businesses, especially smaller ones, across the Western Slope.
Soper: “The bill is quite troubling for small businesses, because it changes the Colorado Consumer Protection Act, which allows any Coloradan to sue a business for deceptive trade practices, and while that may sound like something that’s noble and reasonable, and it is, the changes in the bill are what’s concerning. So, under current law, there is what’s called the Public Impact Requirement that you’d have to prove, so you’d have to prove if something was knowingly false or deceptive, that it actually had a public impact. That as the plaintiff, you were impacted the same as any other potential plaintiff out there would be impacted. So if it was advertising, everyone would be impacted the same, it’s not that the business just treated you differently rather than me. So that’s what is probably most troubling, because now all of a sudden, anyone can launch a lawsuit against a business.
Gunnison: “Do you anticipate that this bill will pass the (State) Senate?
Soper: ‘It’s been delayed…for a while now. I know there are a lot of talks underway to bring back the amendment that failed to take out the consumer protection piece, and the Senate sponsors are trying to amend it in a different direction to soften the opposition…they’re kind of in a stalemate right now. I actually think there’s some major questions about, if we can’t resolve this, does it get out of the Senate? I mean we only have three weeks left (in this session, as of 4/13/23). If it does get out of the Senate, I expect it to be amended, which means it will come back to the House.”
Gunnison: ‘So then you would vote on that amended bill?’
Soper: ‘Correct, and if they strike out the consumer protection piece, I would be a yes vote, as it stands right now.”
Gunnison: “If it were to come back and that part were to be kicked out, do you anticipate other Republican legislators would vote yes as well?”
Matthew: ‘Yeah, I would imagine our caucus would be probably, maybe a third would be in support, those that really understand the bill. Others probably would continue to be opposed, just because the bill number has been tainted, we’ve received so many emails from small businesses against it, that they would just rather vote no.”
Gunnison: ‘For business owners, should this pass, is there any advice you have for them, in the legal department, should somebody get sued because of this change?
Soper: ‘If this does get signed by the governor, and become the law of Colorado, my advice to businesses would be A) Go out and read the law. B) I would be very careful with any advertising, more so than right now, and I also would be very careful with what the business owner, managers, or any employee says about either the product or service that you’re offering. Because any statement that could be caught up by what the statute would then say, that you knowingly and recklessly make a statement, declaring something…that could be the opening for a lawsuit.”
Soper then spoke on why he believes this is a particularly important legislative session.
Soper: ”lliis session more than any other session, it seems like has a lot of legislation impacting employers and landlords.”
Gunnison Clamp is a freelance writer for the Montrose Business Times.