§ 56-593

Retail customers’ private right of action; marketing practices

A. No entity subject to this chapter shall use any deception, fraud, false pretense, misrepresentation, or any deceptive or unfair practices in providing, distributing or marketing electric service.

B.

1. Any person who suffers loss (i) as the result of marketing practices, including telemarketing practices, engaged in by any public service company, licensed supplier, aggregator or any other provider of any service made competitive under this chapter, and in violation of subsection C of § 56-592, including any rule or regulation adopted by the Commission pursuant thereto, or (ii) as the result of any violation of subsection A, shall be entitled to initiate an action to recover actual damages, or $ 500, whichever is greater. If the trier of fact finds that the violation was willful, it may increase damages to an amount not exceeding three times the actual damages sustained, or $ 1,000, whichever is greater.

2. Upon referral from the Commission, the Attorney General, the attorney for the Commonwealth, or the attorney for any city, county, or town may cause an action to be brought in the appropriate circuit court for relief of violations within the scope of (i) subsection C of § 56-592, including any rule or regulation adopted by the Commission pursuant thereto or (ii) subsection A.

C. Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, in addition to any damages awarded, such person, or any governmental agency initiating such action, also may be awarded reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs.

D. Any action pursuant to this section shall be commenced within two years after its accrual. The cause of action shall accrue as provided in § 8.01-230. However, if the Commission initiates proceedings, or any other governmental agency files suit for the purpose of enforcing subsection A of this section or the provisions of subsection C of § 56-592, the time during which such proceeding or governmental suit and all appeals therefrom is pending shall not be counted as any part of the period within which an action under this section shall be brought.

E. The circuit court may make such additional orders or decrees as may be necessary to restore to any identifiable person any money or property, real, personal, or mixed, tangible or intangible, which may have been acquired from such person by means of any act or practice violative of subsection A of this section or subsection C of § 56-592, provided, that such person shall be identified by order of the court within 180 days from the date of any order permanently enjoining the unlawful act or practice.

F. In any case arising under this section, no liability shall be imposed upon any licensed supplier, aggregator or any other provider of any service made competitive under this chapter, who shows by a preponderance of the evidence that (i) the act or practice alleged to be in violation of subsection A of this section or subsection C of § 56-592 was an act or practice over which the same had no control or (ii) the alleged violation resulted from a bona fide error notwithstanding the maintenance of procedures reasonably adopted to avoid a violation. However, nothing in this section shall prevent the court from ordering restitution and payment of reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs pursuant to subsection C to individuals aggrieved as a result of an unintentional violation of subsection A of this section or subsection C of § 56-592.

History

1999, c. 411; 2000, c. 991.

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