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SB-461 Unfair Competition Law: enforcement.(2021-2022)

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Date Published: 07/26/2021 02:00 PM
SB461:v97#DOCUMENT

Senate Bill No. 461
CHAPTER 140

An act to amend Sections 17204, 17206, and 17207 of the Business and Professions Code, relating to business.

[ Approved by Governor  July 23, 2021. Filed with Secretary of State  July 23, 2021. ]

LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


SB 461, Cortese. Unfair Competition Law: enforcement.
The Unfair Competition Law (UCL) makes various practices unlawful and provides that a person who engages, has engaged, or proposes to engage in unfair competition is liable for a civil penalty, as specified. For actions for relief prosecuted under the UCL, existing law authorizes those actions to be brought by certain public attorneys, including the Attorney General, a city attorney of a city having a population in excess of 750,000, and a county counsel authorized by agreement with the district attorney in actions involving violation of a county ordinance.
This bill would additionally authorize an action under the UCL to be brought by a county counsel of a county within which a city has a population in excess of 750,000 people.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: NO   Local Program: NO  

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


SECTION 1.

 Section 17204 of the Business and Professions Code is amended to read:

17204.
 Actions for Injunctions by Attorney General, District Attorney, County Counsel, and City Attorneys
Actions for relief pursuant to this chapter shall be prosecuted exclusively in a court of competent jurisdiction by the Attorney General or a district attorney or by a county counsel authorized by agreement with the district attorney in actions involving violation of a county ordinance, or by a city attorney of a city having a population in excess of 750,000, or by a county counsel of any county within which a city has a population in excess of 750,000, or by a city attorney in a city and county or, with the consent of the district attorney, by a city prosecutor in a city having a full-time city prosecutor in the name of the people of the State of California upon their own complaint or upon the complaint of a board, officer, person, corporation, or association, or by a person who has suffered injury in fact and has lost money or property as a result of the unfair competition.

SEC. 2.

 Section 17206 of the Business and Professions Code is amended to read:

17206.
 Civil Penalty for Violation of Chapter
(a) Any person who engages, has engaged, or proposes to engage in unfair competition shall be liable for a civil penalty not to exceed two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500) for each violation, which shall be assessed and recovered in a civil action brought in the name of the people of the State of California by the Attorney General, by any district attorney, by any county counsel authorized by agreement with the district attorney in actions involving violation of a county ordinance, by any city attorney of a city having a population in excess of 750,000, or by a county counsel of any county within which a city has a population in excess of 750,000, by any city attorney of any city and county, or, with the consent of the district attorney, by a city prosecutor in any city having a full-time city prosecutor, in any court of competent jurisdiction.
(b) The court shall impose a civil penalty for each violation of this chapter. In assessing the amount of the civil penalty, the court shall consider any one or more of the relevant circumstances presented by any of the parties to the case, including, but not limited to, the following: the nature and seriousness of the misconduct, the number of violations, the persistence of the misconduct, the length of time over which the misconduct occurred, the willfulness of the defendant’s misconduct, and the defendant’s assets, liabilities, and net worth.
(c) (1) If the action is brought by the Attorney General, one-half of the penalty collected shall be paid to the treasurer of the county in which the judgment was entered, and one-half to the General Fund.
(2) If the action is brought by a district attorney or county counsel, the penalty collected shall be paid to the treasurer of the county in which the judgment was entered.
(3) (A) Except as provided in subparagraph (B) and subdivision (e), if the action is brought by a city attorney or city prosecutor, one-half of the penalty collected shall be paid to the treasurer of the city in which the judgment was entered, and one-half to the treasurer of the county in which the judgment was entered.
(B) If the action is brought by the City Attorney of San Diego, the penalty collected shall be paid to the treasurer of the City of San Diego.
(4) The aforementioned funds shall be for the exclusive use by the Attorney General, the district attorney, the county counsel, and the city attorney for the enforcement of consumer protection laws.
(d) The Unfair Competition Law Fund is hereby created as a special account within the General Fund in the State Treasury. The portion of penalties that is payable to the General Fund or to the Treasurer recovered by the Attorney General from an action or settlement of a claim made by the Attorney General pursuant to this chapter or Chapter 1 (commencing with Section 17500) of Part 3 shall be deposited into this fund. Moneys in this fund, upon appropriation by the Legislature, shall be used by the Attorney General to support investigations and prosecutions of California’s consumer protection laws, including implementation of judgments obtained from such prosecutions or investigations and other activities which are in furtherance of this chapter or Chapter 1 (commencing with Section 17500) of Part 3. Notwithstanding Section 13340 of the Government Code, any civil penalties deposited in the fund pursuant to the National Mortgage Settlement, as provided in Section 12531 of the Government Code, are continuously appropriated to the Department of Justice for the purpose of offsetting General Fund costs incurred by the Department of Justice.
(e) If the action is brought at the request of a board within the Department of Consumer Affairs or a local consumer affairs agency, the court shall determine the reasonable expenses incurred by the board or local agency in the investigation and prosecution of the action.
Before any penalty collected is paid out pursuant to subdivision (c), the amount of any reasonable expenses incurred by the board shall be paid to the Treasurer for deposit in the special fund of the board described in Section 205. If the board has no such special fund, the moneys shall be paid to the Treasurer. The amount of any reasonable expenses incurred by a local consumer affairs agency shall be paid to the general fund of the municipality or county that funds the local agency.
(f) If the action is brought by a city attorney of a city and county, the entire amount of the penalty collected shall be paid to the treasurer of the city and county in which the judgment was entered for the exclusive use by the city attorney for the enforcement of consumer protection laws. However, if the action is brought by a city attorney of a city and county for the purposes of civil enforcement pursuant to Section 17980 of the Health and Safety Code or Article 3 (commencing with Section 11570) of Chapter 10 of Division 10 of the Health and Safety Code, either the penalty collected shall be paid entirely to the treasurer of the city and county in which the judgment was entered or, upon the request of the city attorney, the court may order that up to one-half of the penalty, under court supervision and approval, be paid for the purpose of restoring, maintaining, or enhancing the premises that were the subject of the action, and that the balance of the penalty be paid to the treasurer of the city and county.

SEC. 3.

 Section 17207 of the Business and Professions Code is amended to read:

17207.
 (a) Any person who intentionally violates any injunction prohibiting unfair competition issued pursuant to Section 17203 shall be liable for a civil penalty not to exceed six thousand dollars ($6,000) for each violation. Where the conduct constituting a violation is of a continuing nature, each day of that conduct is a separate and distinct violation. In determining the amount of the civil penalty, the court shall consider all relevant circumstances, including, but not limited to, the extent of the harm caused by the conduct constituting a violation, the nature and persistence of that conduct, the length of time over which the conduct occurred, the assets, liabilities, and net worth of the person, whether corporate or individual, and any corrective action taken by the defendant.
(b) The civil penalty prescribed by this section shall be assessed and recovered in a civil action brought in any county in which the violation occurs or where the injunction was issued in the name of the people of the State of California by the Attorney General or by any district attorney, any county counsel of any county within which a city has a population in excess of 750,000 or any county counsel that is authorized by agreement with the district attorney in actions involving violation of a county ordinance, or any city attorney in any court of competent jurisdiction within the attorney’s jurisdiction without regard to the county from which the original injunction was issued. An action brought pursuant to this section to recover civil penalties shall take precedence over all civil matters on the calendar of the court except those matters to which equal precedence on the calendar is granted by law.
(c) If such an action is brought by the Attorney General, one-half of the penalty collected pursuant to this section shall be paid to the treasurer of the county in which the judgment was entered, and one-half to the State Treasurer. If brought by a district attorney or county counsel the entire amount of the penalty collected shall be paid to the treasurer of the county in which the judgment is entered. If brought by a city attorney or city prosecutor, one-half of the penalty shall be paid to the treasurer of the county in which the judgment was entered and one-half to the city, except that if the action was brought by a city attorney of a city and county the entire amount of the penalty collected shall be paid to the treasurer of the city and county in which the judgment is entered.
(d) If the action is brought at the request of a board within the Department of Consumer Affairs or a local consumer affairs agency, the court shall determine the reasonable expenses incurred by the board or local agency in the investigation and prosecution of the action.
Before any penalty collected is paid out pursuant to subdivision (c), the amount of the reasonable expenses incurred by the board shall be paid to the State Treasurer for deposit in the special fund of the board described in Section 205. If the board has no such special fund, the moneys shall be paid to the State Treasurer. The amount of the reasonable expenses incurred by a local consumer affairs agency shall be paid to the general fund of the municipality or county which funds the local agency.