South Carolina Deceptive Trade Practices Laws


South Carolina has not adopted the Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act.  The state governs deceptive trade practices through South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act (“Act”).  The Act is provided under Title 39, Chapter 5 of the South Carolina Code.

Section 39-5-10 defines ‘trade and commerce’ to include advertising and Section 39-5-20 declares unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of any trade or commerce as unlawful.

By the authority of Section 39-5-50, an Attorney General can bring an action in the name of the State for restitution, temporary restraining order, or temporary or permanent injunctions.  Such actions can be brought against any person who is using, has used or is about to use any method, act or practice declared to be unlawful by the provisions of this Act.  The orders and injunctions are issued by the Court to restrain and prevent violations of this Act.  Reasonable costs shall be awarded to the state if the permanent injunction issued becomes final.  Additionally, the court may also revoke the license or certificate for carrying out business in South Carolina.

Pursuant to Section 39-5-110, upon the petition of an Attorney General, if the court finds willful use of an unlawful deceptive act, practice or method, a civil penalty not exceeding $5000 per violation can be recovered.  A civil penalty not exceeding $15,000 per violation will be imposed on any person who violates the terms of an injunction issued by the court.  The court shall also award reasonable costs to the state.  Under Section 39-5-120, the court may, upon petition of the Attorney General, order the dissolution or suspension or forfeiture of any franchise or charter of any corporation for violation of the terms of an injunction.

Under Section 39-5-130, any solicitor or county or city attorney, with prior approval of the Attorney General, may also bring actions for violation of the provisions of this Act.  By the authority of Section 39-5-140, any person who suffers any ascertainable loss of money or property, from the use or employment of any unlawful deceptive practice, can bring an action to recover actual damages.  Willful employment or use of such practices will result in an award three times the actual damages sustained.  Reasonable attorney fees and costs will be awarded to the person bringing an action if the court finds a violation.

By the authority of Section 56-15-350, the license of an applicant or licensee will be denied, suspended or revoked if a court finds that s/he has violated the federal or state law with regard to the disconnecting, resetting, altering, or other unlawful tampering with a motor vehicle odometer.

S.C. Code Ann. § 39-5-10

Short title; definitions.
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(b) “Trade” and “commerce” shall include the advertising, offering for sale, sale or distribution of any services and any property, tangible or intangible, real, personal or mixed, and any other article, commodity or thing of value wherever situate, and shall include any trade or commerce directly or indirectly affecting the people of this State.
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S.C. Code Ann. § 39-5-20

Unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices unlawful; application of interpretations of Federal act.
(a) Unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of any trade or commerce are hereby declared unlawful.

S.C. Code Ann. § 39-5-50

Action for injunction against violation of article; additional orders or judgments to restore property acquired by illegal means.
(a) Whenever the Attorney General has reasonable cause to believe that any person is using, has used or is about to use any method, act or practice declared by § 39-5-20 to be unlawful, and that proceedings would be in the public interest, he may bring an action in the name of the State against such person to restrain by temporary restraining order, temporary injunction or permanent injunction the use of such method, act or practice…Whenever any permanent injunction is issued by such court in connection with any action which has become final, reasonable costs shall be awarded to the State.
(b) The court may make such additional orders or judgments as may be necessary to restore to any person who has suffered any ascertainable loss by reason of the use or employment of such unlawful method, act or practice, any moneys or property, real or personal, which may have been acquired by means of any practice declared to be unlawful in this article, including the revocation of a license or certificate authorizing that person to engage in business in this State, provided the order declaring the practice to have been unlawful has become final.

S.C. Code Ann. § 39-5-110

Civil penalties for willful violation or violations of injunction.
(a) If a court finds that any person is willfully using or has willfully used a method, act or practice declared unlawful by § 39-5-20, the Attorney General, upon petition to the court, may recover on behalf of the State a civil penalty of not exceeding five thousand dollars per violation.
(b) Any person who violates the terms of an injunction issued under § 39-5-50 shall forfeit and pay to the State a civil penalty of not more than fifteen thousand dollars per violation. For the purposes of this section, the court of common pleas issuing an injunction shall retain jurisdiction, and the cause shall be continued and in such cases the Attorney General acting in the name of the State may petition for recovery of civil penalties. Whenever the court determines that an injunction issued pursuant to § 39-5-50 has been violated, the court shall award reasonable costs to the State.

S.C. Code Ann. § 39-5-120

Dissolution, suspension or forfeiture of franchise or charter of corporation violating injunction.
Upon petition by the Attorney General, the court of common pleas may, for good cause shown, order the dissolution or suspension or forfeiture of any franchise or charter of any corporation which violates the terms of any injunction issued under § 39-5-50.

S.C. Code Ann. § 39-5-130

Duty of solicitors and county and city attorneys.
It shall be the duty of the solicitors of each judicial circuit and all county and city attorneys to lend to the Attorney General such assistance as the Attorney General may request in the commencement and prosecution of actions pursuant to this article, or any solicitor or county or city attorney with prior approval of the Attorney General may institute and prosecute actions hereunder in the same manner as provided for the Attorney General; provided, however, that if an action is prosecuted by a solicitor or county or city attorney alone, he shall make a full report thereon to the Attorney General, including the final disposition of the matter.

S.C. Code Ann. § 39-5-140

Actions for damages.
(a) Any person who suffers any ascertainable loss of money or property, real or personal, as a result of the use or employment by another person of an unfair or deceptive method, act or practice declared unlawful by § 39-5-20 may bring an action individually, but not in a representative capacity, to recover actual damages. If the court finds that the use or employment of the unfair or deceptive method, act or practice was a willful or knowing violation of § 39-5-20, the court shall award three times the actual damages sustained and may provide such other relief as it deems necessary or proper. Upon the finding by the court of a violation of this article, the court shall award to the person bringing such action under this section reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.
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S.C. Code Ann. § 56-15-350

Denial, suspension or revocation of license; grounds; procedure.
Any license issued under this chapter may be denied, suspended, or revoked, if the applicant or licensee or an agency of the applicant or licensee acting for the applicant or licensee is determined by the Department of Motor Vehicles to have:
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(f) been found by a court of competent jurisdiction to have violated any federal or state law regarding the disconnecting, resetting, altering, or other unlawful tampering with a motor vehicle odometer, including the provisions of 49 U.S.C. 32701-32711 (Title 49, Subtitle VI, Part C, Chapter 327);

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