California Unfair Competition Law

Section 17200, of the California Business and Professions Code, sometimes known as the Unfair Business Practices Act, allows private citizens, acting as civil plaintiffs and/or on behalf of the public as “private attorneys general” to file lawsuits to protect businesses from the unfair business practices of competitors. This aspect of the California UCL is not in principle unusual in US State law. What is unusual is that the law also includes within its remit any “unlawful, unfair or fraudulent business act or practice” and any “unfair, deceptive, untrue or misleading advertising.”

Section 17200 is not limited to anticompetitive business practices. Indeed, Section 17200’s principal current application is consumer protection, but it has also been asserted in business contract disputes. Under the act, claims may be based on business practices (i.e., activities) that are merely “unfair” even if not otherwise “unlawful.” This enormously broad provision means that a huge array of activities can potentially be treated as “unfair business practices.”