That all changed on May 21, 1973, when then-Gov. Dolph Briscoe signed the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA) and the unfair insurance practices provisions of the Texas Insurance Code, which celebrate their 40th birthdays today.
“It provided basic consumer remedies where there had been deceptive trade practices and breach of warranties for products, goods or services” says Joe Longley about the DTPA.
The amendments to the insurance code provided similar, yet broader, protections for consumers in the insurance context, he notes.
Longley, an Austin solo, knows those statutes better than most, because, as this photo reveals, he was once the 29-year-old head of the Consumer Protection Division of the Texas Attorney General’s office and helped draft both pieces of legislation. That’s him on the left with Briscoe and then-Texas Attorney General John Hill on the far right on May 21, 1973, when the DTPA and the unfair insurance provisions became law.
Before those laws, Texas statutes had little protection to offer consumers except common law fraud, Longley says.
“We had no private remedies, other than common law fraud, which was very difficult to prove, and you could not get attorneys’ fees in common fraud,” which changed with the signing of the bill, Longley says.
“On the whole, Texas still has the strongest consumer/insurance protection of any state in the union,” say Longley, noting that there’s a fight every legislative session — including the current one — to roll back the reach of the laws.
“Those two laws have been chipped away at, but they have never been able to do away with the original intent of the legislation, which was to protect consumers and policyholders from unfair practice.”
— John Council