To be unfair, the act or practice must be injurious in its net effects — that is, the injury must not be outweighed by any offsetting consumer or competitive benefits that are also produced by the act or practice. Offsetting consumer or competitive benefits may include lower prices or a wider availability of products and services. Nonetheless, both consumers and competition benefit from preventing unfair acts or practices because prices are likely to better reflect actual transaction costs, and merchants who do not rely on unfair acts or practices are no longer required to compete with those who do. Unfair acts or practices injure both consumers and competitors because consumers who would otherwise have selected a competitor’s product are wrongly diverted by the unfair act or practice. Costs that would be incurred for remedies or measures to prevent the injury are also taken into account in determining whether an act or practice is unfair. These costs may include the costs to the institution in taking preventive measures and the costs to society as a whole of any increased burden and similar matters.
Reference: CFPB Exam Manual V. 2, October 2012