In June 2023, East End Trial’s client petitioned SCOPA for allowance of an appeal to challenge a Superior Court holding that a merchant’s unfair or deceptive miscollection of sales tax does not occur “in the conduct of any trade or commerce” as contemplated by Section 3 of the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practice and Consumer Protection Law (“UTPCPL”), 73 P.S. § 201-3, and, thus, is not actionable under that act.
The panel primarily reasoned that the collection of sales tax is plainly not the conduct of trade or commerce, but, rather, the conduct of regulatory compliance.
In its petition, East End Trial argued that the panel’s reasoning does not bear scrutiny, as there is, at least, a colorable claim that the category of unfair or deceptive acts “in the conduct of any trade or commerce” is broader than trade or commerce as such, and, properly construed in light of other statutory provisions, the UTPCPL’s purpose of consumer protection, and extant administrative interpretations, includes unfair or deceptive miscollection of sales tax.
Having granted allocatur, the sole issue presented for review is:
Did the panel’s precedential opinion erroneously hold that the unfair or deceptive miscollection of sales tax does not occur “in the conduct of any trade or commerce” as contemplated by the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law, misinterpreting the statute and opening the proverbial door for all manner of unfair and deceptive practices in connection with the collection of sales tax and other regulatory compliance, a question of first impression and substantial public importance?
SCOPA’s resolution of this issue will either open the proverbial door to all manner of unfair and deceptive acts in connection with governmentally directed functions, or it will properly find that some acts related to regulatory compliance, like tax collection, are performed “in the conduct of” any trade or commerce.