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Lawmaker looks to strengthen Colorado's Consumer Protection Law

Lawmakers propose a bill addressing defrauding victims to file lawsuits
Lawmakers propose a bill addressing defrauding victims to file lawsuits 03:37

Colorado's Consumer Protection Act could see a major overhaul.

A bill at the state Capitol would make some of the biggest changes to the law since it was passed more than 50 years ago.

Colorado ranks 12th highest in per capita reports of fraud but our consumer protection law is ranked the 48th weakest in the nation.

"I believe Coloradans deserve the same protections from unfair and deceptive business practices as consumers in states all the way from blue California to red Mississippi," said Representative Mike Weissman, who is sponsoring the bill.

Colorado is among seven states that require consumers to prove not only that a business cheated them but that it cheats people on a regular basis, causing a significant public impact.

"This really cuts against the purpose of a consumer protection law. Any state's consumer protection law is supposed to prevent people from being harmed in the first instance. If we say that you have to prove significant public harm, that means a bunch of people have already been ripped off before somebody can recover from a contractor who takes advantage of you or something like that," he said. 

His bill would remove that standard along with a provision that requires consumers to prove a bait and switch or misleading price claim, for example, was made knowingly and recklessly. 

"That's the subjective mental state that can be very hard to prove," he said. 

Opponents of the bill, including executive director of the Colorado Home Builders Association, Ted Leighty, warned it would make Colorado's affordable housing crisis worse by increasing frivolous lawsuits and driving up the cost of insurance for builders. 

"Builders will not build if they're overly penalized for innocent mistakes. They are businesses. They can only build homes if they can make a return," he said.

But Weissman notes the standards have been in place in other states for decades and builders haven't fled those states. In addition to making it easier to hold bad actors accountable, his bill increases the penalties on those businesses to triple damages in some cases. 

"In short, I think we owe our constituents better than the status quo," he told members of the House Judiciary Committee.   

His bill also extends the state's price gouging law to protect consumers 180 days after the end of a disaster declaration and it updates the state's anti-trust law for the first time in nearly 30 years, adding aiding and abetting to actions that are prohibited, allowing lawsuits in cases where a person or business is injured indirectly and increasing civil and criminal penalties. 

While some of the provisions are covered under the federal anti-trust law, Weissman says, the feds deal with big mergers, and some mergers like Albertsons-Safeway for example, are big for Colorado but not the nation. 

His bill passed the House Judiciary Committee and is headed to the full House. 

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