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California Prop 64 Would Hurt Consumers & Gut Unfair Business Competition Law

SACRAMENTO, CA -- September 24, 2004 -- Proposition 64 would limit the rights of Californians to enforce environmental, public health, and consumer protection laws by effectively gutting the state's Unfair Business Competition Law. The initiative would allow only the California Attorney General or certain local prosecutors to sue companies for unfair and deceptive business practices. Unless they were personally injured or suffered financial losses, individuals and consumer groups would no longer be allowed to sue in such cases.

Enacted in 1933, the Unfair Business Competition Law (Business and Professions Code 17200) allows individuals and public interest groups to sue to prevent companies that cheat competitors or consumers from profiting from their misconduct. Lawsuits filed under this law:

  • Forced companies to clean up toxic spills from underground petroleum storage tanks
  • Prevented several oil companies from continuing to let benzene and toluene get into the public groundwater
  • Halted false advertising about raw milk
  • Forced bottled-water companies to remove illegal levels of arsenic in their products
  • Stopped a supermarket chain from changing meat expiration dates
  • Stopped illegal timber cutting at a ski resort
  • Caused an HMO to discontinue its deceptive door-to-door marketing practices

These are just a few of the successful cases that would not have come into being had Proposition 64 been in effect. Proposition 64 is not about limiting frivolous or shakedown lawsuits, as its proponents would have you believe. Instead, it targets lawsuits with merit.

Industry and Big Business Back Proposition 64

Industry and business groups have contributed $9 million to support Proposition 64, including $2.5 million from the California Motor Car Dealers Association (Los Angeles Times, September 11, 2004; Sacramento Bee, September 17, 2004). Major contributors to the pro-Proposition 64 campaign include Microsoft, Blue Cross of California, State Farm Group, Bank of America, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, and Southern California Edison (Los Angeles Times, July 6, 2004).

The Sierra Club California, California League of Conservation Voters, Environment California and the Center for Environmental Health have joined the American Lung Association, the California Nurses Association, and Consumers Union in opposing Proposition 64. The initiative is also opposed by AARP (American Association of Retired People), California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, and the Congress of California Seniors.

At Brayton Purcell, we are against Proposition 64 because we believe that it harms the public and weakens the individual's legal rights. We urge you to oppose this initiative.

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