Q: I want to bring a claim against someone for engaging in unfair and deceptive trade practices under Chapter 93A. Do I need to send a demand letter first, and, if so, what should it say?
A: If you are an individual consumer who wants to bring a Chapter 93A claim (known as a § 9 claim), you must first send the prospective defendant a demand letter. If you are a businessperson engaged in trade or commerce seeking to sue someone else acting in trade or commerce, you do not have to send a demand letter before bringing suit. You also do not need to send a demand letter, even for a § 9 claim, if you are asserting your Chapter 93A claim as part of a counterclaim or cross-claim in existing litigation.
To make a proper demand prior to bringing a Section 9 claim, you should ensure that your letter meets the following criteria:
- The demand letter must be in writing.
- The demand letter must be sent to the prospective defendant by either mail or some form of in-person delivery.
- The demand letter must be sent at least thirty days before you file your lawsuit with the Chapter 93A claim.
- The demand letter must identify the person or entity making the claim of unfair or deceptive practices.
- The demand letter must reasonably describe the alleged unfair or deceptive practice.
- The demand letter must reasonably describe the injury you have suffered (though you do not need to put a precise dollar figure on that injury).
- The demand letter must identify the relief you seek from the respondent.
- The demand letter must make clear that you plan to bring a claim under Chapter 93A. You can satisfy this criteria by including one or more of the following in your letter:
- An express reference to G.L. c. 93A;
- An express reference to the Consumer Protection Act;
- An assertion that your rights as a consumer have been violated;
- An assertion that the defendant has acted in an unfair or deceptive manner;
- A specific statement that you anticipate a settlement offer within thirty days; or
- An assertion that you will pursue multiple damages and legal expenses if the offer of settlement is not made or is not reasonable.
You do not need to attach any backup documentation or proof of your allegations to your letter. When you eventually file your complaint with your Chapter 93A claim, you should allege facts showing that you complied with the demand requirement.