Code of the District of Columbia

§ 28–3901. Definitions and purposes.

(a) As used in this chapter, the term —

(1) “person” means an individual, firm, corporation, partnership, cooperative, association, or any other organization, legal entity, or group of individuals however organized;

(2) “consumer” means:

(A) When used as a noun, a person who, other than for purposes of resale, does or would purchase, lease (as lessee), or receive consumer goods or services, including as a co-obligor or surety, or does or would otherwise provide the economic demand for a trade practice;

(B) When used as an adjective, describes anything, without exception, that:

(i) A person does or would purchase, lease (as lessee), or receive and normally use for personal, household, or family purposes; or

(ii) A person described in § 28-3905(k)(1)(B) or (C) purchases or receives in order to test or evaluate qualities pertaining to use for personal, household, or family purposes.

(3) “merchant” means a person, whether organized or operating for profit or for a nonprofit purpose, who in the ordinary course of business does or would sell, lease (to), or transfer, either directly or indirectly, consumer goods or services, or a person who in the ordinary course of business does or would supply the goods or services which are or would be the subject matter of a trade practice;

(4) “complainant” means one or more consumers who took part in a trade practice, or one or more persons acting on behalf of (not the legal representative or other counsel of) such consumers, or the successors or assigns of such consumers or persons, once such consumers or persons complain to the Department about the trade practice;

(5) “respondent” means one or more merchants alleged by a complainant to have taken part in or carried out a trade practice, or the successors or assigns of such merchants, and includes other persons who may be deemed legally responsible for the trade practice;

(6) “trade practice” means any act which does or would create, alter, repair, furnish, make available, provide information about, or, directly or indirectly, solicit or offer for or effectuate, a sale, lease or transfer, of consumer goods or services;

(7) “goods and services” means any and all parts of the economic output of society, at any stage or related or necessary point in the economic process, and includes consumer credit, franchises, business opportunities, real estate transactions, and consumer services of all types;

(8) “Department” means the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs;

(9) “Director” means the Director of the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs;

(10) “Chief of the Office of Compliance” means the senior administrative officer of the Department’s Office of Compliance who is delegated the responsibility of carrying out certain duties specified under section 28-3905;

(11) “Office of Adjudication” means the Department’s Office of Adjudication which is responsible for carrying out certain duties specified under section 28-3905;

(12) “Office of Consumer Protection” means the Department’s Office of Consumer Protection which is responsible for carrying out the statutory requirements set forth in § 28-3906; and

(13) “Committee” means the Advisory Committee on Consumer Protection which is responsible for carrying out the statutory requirements set forth in section 28-3907.

(14) “nonprofit organization” means a person who:

(A) Is not an individual; and

(B) Is neither organized nor operating, in whole or in significant part, for profit.

(15) “public interest organization” means a nonprofit organization that is organized and operating, in whole or in part, for the purpose of promoting interests or rights of consumers.

(b) The purposes of this chapter are to:

(1) assure that a just mechanism exists to remedy all improper trade practices and deter the continuing use of such practices;

(2) promote, through effective enforcement, fair business practices throughout the community; and

(3) educate consumers to demand high standards and seek proper redress of grievances.

(c) This chapter shall be construed and applied liberally to promote its purpose. This chapter establishes an enforceable right to truthful information from merchants about consumer goods and services that are or would be purchased, leased, or received in the District of Columbia.

(d) In construing the term "unfair or deceptive trade practice" due consideration and weight shall be given to the interpretation by the Federal Trade Commission and the federal courts of the term "unfair or deceptive act or practice," as employed in section 5(a) of An Act To create a Federal Trade Commission, to define its powers and duties, and for other purposes, approved September 26, 1914 (38 Stat. 719; 15 U.S.C. § 45(a)).


(July 22, 1976, D.C. Law 1-76, § 2, 23 DCR 1185; enacted, Sept. 6, 1980, D.C. Law 3-85, § 3(a), (d), 27 DCR 2900; Mar. 8, 1991, D.C. Law 8-234, § 2(b), 38 DCR 296; Feb. 5, 1994, D.C. Law 10-68, § 27(b), 40 DCR 6311; Apr. 9, 1997, D.C. Law 11-255, § 27(u), 44 DCR 1271; Oct. 19, 2000, D.C. Law 13-172, § 1402(b), 47 DCR 6308; Oct. 20, 2005, D.C. Law 16-33, § 2032(b), 52 DCR 7503; June 12, 2007, D.C. Law 17-4, § 2(a), 54 DCR 4085; Apr. 23, 2013, D.C. Law 19-282, § 2(b)(1), 60 DCR 2132; July 17, 2018, D.C. Law 22-140, § 2(b), 65 DCR 5970.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 28-3901.

1973 Ed., T. 28, Appx., § 2.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 1-350.10, § 28-3301, and § 28-3905.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 13-172 in subsec. (b)(1) inserted “and deter the continuing use of such practices” following “practices” in subsec. (b)(1) and added subsec. (c) providing for liberal construction of the chapter.

D.C. Law 16-33 rewrote subsec. (a)(12), which had read:

“(12) ’Office of Consumer Education and Information’ means the Department’s Office of Consumer Education and Information which is responsible for carrying out the statutory requirements set forth in section 28-3906; and”

D.C. Law 17-4 rewrote subsec. (a)(3), which had read as follows: “(3) ‘merchant’ means a person who does or would sell, lease (to), or transfer, either directly or indirectly, consumer goods or services, or a person who does or would supply the goods or services which are or would be the subject matter of a trade practice;”.

The 2013 amendment by D.C. Law 19-282 rewrote (a)(2); added (a)(14) and (a)(15); and added the last sentence in (c).

Cross References

Automobile Consumer Protection Act, see § 50-501 et seq.

Employer-paid personnel services, operation requirements, see § 32-406.

Employment agencies and counseling services, operation requirements, see §§ 32-404 and 32-405.

Job listing services, operation requirements, see § 32-407.

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90-day) amendment of section, see § 1402(b) of the Fiscal Year 2001 Budget Support Emergency Act of 2000 (D.C. Act 13-376, July 24, 2000, 47 DCR 6574).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 1402(b) of the Fiscal Year 2001 Budget Support Congressional Review Emergency Act of 2000 (D.C. Act 13-438, October 20, 2000, 47 DCR 8740).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2032(b) of Fiscal Year 2006 Budget Support Emergency Act of 2005 (D.C. Act 16-168, July 26, 2005, 52 DCR 7667).

Short Title

Short title of subtitle D of title II of Law 16-33: Section 2031 of D.C. Law 16-33 provided that subtitle D of title II of the act may be cited as the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Consumer Protection Revitalization Act of 2005.

Delegation of Authority

Delegation of authority pursuant to Law 1-76, see Mayor’s Order 86-132, August 12, 1986.