When people ask me how many languages I speak, my traditional quip is to answer, “three – English, French, and Legalese.” Our readers shouldn’t doubt that the latter is a distinctive tongue.
So it is with the word “unfair,” which, besides denoting something different to every English speaker, has an extra panoply of meanings in legalese. An unfair trade practice, for instance, means something quite specific. It sometimes aligns with what some people intuitively would think of as unjust, and sometimes not: an unfair trade practice is one that causes substantial monetary damages greater than the benefit to the consumer and in such circumstances that the consumer was not in a position to avoid the injury.
Each element of that broad definition has, in turn, a network of meanings and definitions attached to it. That is relevant to business owners. If confronted with a claim that they supposedly did something unfair, the wise move is to first consult an attorney. A successful consumer in an unfair trade practice action will often get their attorneys’ fees paid on top of other damages, potentially multiplying the business’ exposure. What the law calls unfair is more than a question of opinion or value – and a dose of clarity on that topic is generally worth good counsel.