[You can read the whole series of Honda Village postings here.]
January 22, 2010
Village Automotive Group
75 North Beacon Street
Allston, MA 02134-1912
Dear Mr. Ciccolo,
Once again, I find myself sending you a M.G.L. Chapter 93a letter because of Honda Village’s deceptive trade practices.
In June 2009, Honda Village started sending me promotional materials in envelopes that look like this:
[image elided; see my previous blog posting]
I am not going to waste my time explaining why this is clearly intended to deceive the recipient about the source, importance, and content of these mailings. I know this is so; you know this is so; the methods of deception and intent to deceive are obvious. I’m quite certain that a judge will agree.
I received a number of these mailings before I finally decided to ask you to stop sending them. On October 15, I sent a message through the contact form on your Web site which read as follows:
(Do not add my email address to any bulk email lists as a result of this submission. I am providing you with my email address only so that you can respond to this request. NO OTHER USE OF MY EMAIL ADDRESS IS AUTHORIZED.)
(Do not add my postal mailing address to any direct-marketing lists as a result of this submission. I am providing you with my postal address only so that you can remove me from your direct-marketing list as described below. NO OTHER USE OF MY POSTAL ADDRESS IS AUTHORIZED.)
For months now, you have been sending me junk mail in envelopes that you have intentionally designed to deceive recipients. You’ve made them look like some sort of official certified or registered mail, and you’ve intentionally left your company name and return address off of the envelopes. These envelopes are clearly designed to get people to open them, when they would just throw them in the trash if it was obvious they were from you.
This kind of deceptive direct-mail advertising is exceedingly slimy. It is distressing to me that I purchased a vehicle from a company that employs such slimy tactics. You have proven to me, unfortunately not for the first time, that my initial impression, that you were different from all the other slimy car dealers out there, was wrong.
Whatever mailing list I am on to be sent these slimy mailings — please get me off of it. Right now. And leave me off of it. Permanently.
Honda Village did not have the courtesy to reply. Furthermore, since I sent the message quoted above, I have received at least two more of these offensive mailings, the most recent one today.
If you had stopped sending these when I asked you to stop, I would have left it at that. But since you didn’t, I have decided to teach you a lesson not only about not sending junk mail to people who have asked you to stop, but also about engaging in deceptive trade practices.
Chapter 93a stipulates that individuals may sue businesses which engage in deceptive trade practices for the greater of actual damages or $25. The law further stipulates that double or even triple damages shall be awarded for willful violations and/or when the violator refuses to grant relief. Finally, the law stipulates that a claim for damages may be made by the plaintiff for each separate violation.
At first glance, $25, may not seem like a lot. However, I have documented at least four such mailings, which increases the damages to $100. Given that your attempt to deceive is clearly willful, and that you failed to grant relief by stopping the mailings when I asked you to, triple damages are warranted, i.e., $300. And of course there’s also the filing fee.
But wait, there’s more. Chapter 93a (Section 9) also has this to say:
(2) Any persons entitled to bring such action may, if the use or employment of the unfair or deceptive act or practice has caused similar injury to numerous other persons similarly situated and if the court finds in a preliminary hearing that he adequately and fairly represents such other persons, bring the action on behalf of himself and such other similarly injured and situated persons; the court shall require that notice of such action be given to unnamed petitioners in the most effective practicable manner.
In other words, I can and will argue, if you force me to take you to court, that every single recipient of these mailings is entitled to $25 in damages, tripled to $75, for every single one of the mailings they received. That will obviously bump the case out of Small Claims Court and into Superior Court. That’s fine with me, since I have no doubt that I’ll be able to find a class-action lawyer willing to take the case on contingency.
How much do you reckon it’ll cost you to defend against this lawsuit, even if by some miracle you are successful?
As required by Chapter 93a, here are my demands for an acceptable settlement to this matter:
- You will pay me $200 (two hundred dollars), i.e., double the minimum damages to which I am entitled under Chapter 93a, as compensation for the time I’ve spent publicizing and trying to stop your deceptive practices. This is a fair compromise to save us both the trouble of going to court, where I would surely be awarded triple damages.
- You will permanently cease and desist from sending promotional postal and electronic mailings of any sort to my wife or me.
- You will agree in writing that any future promotional mailing sent by you to my wife or me will ipso facto cause us undue emotional distress, and that you will pay damages to us in the amount of $500 (five hundred dollars) for each such mailing.
- While not admitting fault, you will agree in writing to permanently cease and desist from sending promotional mailings, to anyone (i.e., not merely to my wife and me), that are designed to deceive the recipient as to their contents. Furthermore, you will agree to always identify Honda Village or Village Automotive Group by name on the outside of all future promotional mailings.
- You will agree in writing that any future promotional mailings from you which do not identify Honda Village or Village Automotive Group by name on the outside shall ipso facto constitute a deceptive trade practice under Chapter 93a.
- You will agree in writing to allow me to publish your response to this letter, including but not limited to the commitments enumerated in the previous two paragraphs, on my blog.
As required by Chapter 93a, I will await your response for 30 days from the date of this letter before initiating legal action.