New Hampshire's primary consumer protection law is entitled "Regulation of Business Practices for Consumer Protection" and is commonly known as the Consumer Protection Act. (See RSA 358-A, which should be available at your local public library or online) The New Hampshire Consumer Protection Act and the Federal Trade Commission Act, which served as the model for our state law, prohibit the use of any unfair or deceptive act or practice or any unfair method of competition in trade or commerce in New Hampshire. Although there are many business practices which may be unfair or deceptive, our state law specifically identifies the following practices as unfair or deceptive:
- Claiming that goods are new or original when they are used, secondhand, deteriorated, reconditioned or altered.
- Claiming that goods or services have certain characteristics, ingredients, uses, benefits or qualities, or certain sponsorship or approval when they really do not have such, or that a person has a certain sponsorship, approval, status, affiliation or connection that he or she really does not have.
- Falsifying the place of origin of goods or services.
- Passing off goods or services as someone else's.
- Disparaging another business' goods or services by false or misleading statements.
- Advertising goods or services with the intent not to sell them as advertised or failing to have a reasonable supply of goods or services provided on hand (unless the advertisement specifically says that quantities are limited).
- Making false or misleading statements about the existence of, reasons for, or amount of price reductions.
- Conducting "going out of business sales" which last more than 60 days or which are held more than once every two years by the same owners of the business.
- Selling gift certificates for $100.00 or less that have expiration dates. (This does not apply to gift certificates or coupons that are given away.)
- Dormancy fees, latency fees, or any other administrative fees or service charges that have the effect of reducing the total amount for which the holder may redeem a gift certificate are prohibited. (Does not apply to season passes.)
The terms "unfair" or "deceptive acts or practice" and "unfair methods of competition" have developed specialized meanings. For example, many consumers may regard a retail store's policy of limiting returns to receiving store credits to be unfair practice. However, this policy and other return policies that do not involve cash refunds generally do not violate the Consumer Protection Act's prohibition against unfair or deceptive acts or practices.