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Business law, also commonly known as commercial law, is made up of rules, statutes, codes and regulations that govern commercial relationships. Those relationships can be either business-to-business or business-to-consumer. Where a business has violated commercial law, and that violation has resulted in harm, consumers, businesses and/or competitors can file lawsuits against the offending party, or parties, in an attempt to recover their losses.
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Commercial law covers a wide variety of illegal business activities including antitrust, unfair competition, unfair business practices and violations of privacy. It also covers business bankruptcy, contract law and, since the rise of computer technology, cyber law.
Antitrust laws prohibit unfair business practices such as price fixing, creating an illegal monopoly, geographic market allocation and bid rigging. Price fixing occurs when competing sellers agree on what prices they will charge for their goods or services. This can include setting a specific price or agreeing not to sell their goods or services for less than a certain price.
Unfair competition refers to acts committed by one business, or a group of businesses, that illegally harm a competitor. Such acts can include predatory pricing to force competitors out of the market or prevent competition from entering the market, trademark infringement, misappropriation of trade secrets, trade libel and tortuous interference.
Other business practices, including fraud and misrepresentation, can be considered unfair competition if they result in one competitor having an unfair advantage over another.
Unfair Business Practices
Unfair business practices include acts that are prohibited by The Federal Trade Commission Act, such as fraud, misrepresentation and other unethical acts committed by companies. Unfair business practices committed against other companies include business conspiracy, misappropriation of trade secrets and tortuous interference with contracts.
In situations where a company is deemed to have committed unfair business practices, customers can be awarded punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages.
Violations of Privacy
The Federal Trade Commission is responsible for educating consumers and businesses about the importance of personal information privacy. Because of advances in computer technology, detailed information about people is shared more easily than before. This means that companies and individuals must take steps to protect against the misuse of personal information. The Federal Trade Commission Act enforces companies' privacy promises to consumers. Meanwhile, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (also known as the Financial Modernization Act of 1999) implements rules regarding financial privacy notices and safeguarding personal information. The Act also enforces laws against pretexting, the obtaining of personal information through false pretenses.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act also protects consumer privacy.
Business bankruptcy occurs when a business is no longer able to pay back debts to its creditors. Bankruptcy not only affects the debtor, it affects creditors and also customers or clients who may have already purchased goods or services from the company filing for bankruptcy if that company is no longer able to provide those goods and services.
Chapter 7 is the most common type of bankruptcy proceeding and is available to individuals, corporations and partnerships. Under Chapter 7 bankruptcy, also known as liquidation, the debtor's non-exempt assets are sold or otherwise liquidated and proceeds are distributed to creditors.
Chapter 11 is a reorganization proceeding taken on by corporations or partnerships. A Chapter 11 filing allows the company to try to reorganize outstanding debts and continue to operate. The reorganization plan must be approved by a majority of the creditors.
Commercial contracts can involve contracts between businesses or contracts between business and consumer. The commercial contract sets out the parameters that govern the relationship between the two parties involved. If the contract is broken and there has been harm to one of the parties, the harmed party can often file a lawsuit, or file an arbitration depending on the terms set out in the contract, to recover losses that resulted from the contract breach.
Cyber Law and Internet Crime
Cyber law refers to legal issues that arise from the use of the Internet and other networked information technologies. Areas included in cyber law include intellectual property and privacy. Cyber law can be complicated because it can involve numerous jurisdictions. For example, a person in California could make a purchase via the Internet from a company in New York that has its servers in Florida.
One of the laws to come out of the rise of the Internet is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA), which criminalizes the production and dissemination of technology or services that can be used to illegally access copyrighted works.
Commercial law is complex and involves many different acts and statutes. Whether you are a consumer who believes she has been treated unethically by a company or a business with a complaint against another business, commercial lawyers can help to navigate the complex legal system. Experienced business lawyers know which law applies to your situation and which jurisdiction to bring your lawsuit in; decisions that can have a significant impact on the outcome of your lawsuit.
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Updated on Jun-13-13
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