30 day demand letters
If you received a 30 day demand letter from a consumer, you have 30 days to respond in writing. You may want to consider offering a settlement early on. The consumer can choose to accept or reject the offer. A settlement can limit the amount you may owe to that person. A court might also find against you if you don’t offer a settlement.
If the court thinks your offer was reasonable, and the person rejected it, the court may limit the amount you pay to what you offered to pay.
Mediation & suing
If you’ve failed to come to an agreement with the consumer, you have 2 options:
- Mediation — In this process, an impartial person will try to help you reach a solution both you and the consumer find acceptable. Mediation is voluntary — both you and the consumer must want to do this. You can apply for mediation through your local consumer group. This group is affiliated with the Attorney General’s Office.
- Suing in court — If the consumer feels your business actions were "unfair" or "deceptive" or resulted in "a loss of money or property, real or personal," they may decide to sue your business through the court system.
For a business to sue another business:
- The business suing must be involved in trade or commerce
- The business being sued must be involved in an “unfair method of competition” or must have engaged in actions that were “unfair” or “deceptive.”
- The business’s actions must have occurred mainly and significantly inside Massachusetts.
To receive money from a business, that business’s actions must have resulted in a loss of money or property. Or, if one business wants to simply stop another from doing something, that business’s actions “may have the effect of causing” the loss of money or property.
Going to court
If you’ve been “served,” you will have a chance to file an answer, raise defenses, and file counterclaims. For a description of steps involved in filing a case, see Represent Yourself in Court and Small Claims for additional information on filing a small claims case. You may want to get legal advice if you’re going to court. See find an attorney for more information.
In civil cases other than a small claims case, after the answer is filed, the court will set case management deadlines for the filing of discovery and other motions and set dates for a pretrial conference and a trial. The Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure and other court department rules and standing orders govern the process for how a court manages a case.
Settlements & awards
In general, a court may award the consumer $25 or the amount of money the consumer can prove they lost. However, there are some exceptions:
- Your business may offer the consumer a settlement in response to the 30 day demand letter. If your business makes a reasonable offer and the consumer turns it down, a court may limit the award to what your business offered.
- The law allows additional awards when a business “knowingly” or “willfully” does something wrong. A business acts knowingly or willfully when it knows it broke a law or doesn’t fix a problem after being told that it’s breaking the law. If the court determines your business acted knowingly or willfully, you may have to pay an award of double or triple (“treble”) damages and may also be required to pay the consumer's legal fees.