Voluntary Payment Doctrine: Illinoisans' Shield Against Consumer Clawbacks
Illinois courts have long used the voluntary payment doctrine — a common-law rule barring the recovery of erroneous or illegal payments — to dispose of consumer suits for the repayment of mistaken tax charges. Over the past two decades, however, several state courts have held that the doctrine does not apply to claims brought under consumer protection statutes, and appellate courts in Illinois appeared to be following this trend. But a recent decision by the Illinois Supreme Court — McIntosh v. Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. — turned this trajectory on its head, conclusively determining that the voluntary payment doctrine applies to claims brought under the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act and narrowing the exceptions to the doctrine’s application.
This article analyzes the impact of McIntosh on consumer suits to recover erroneous tax payments by situating the case within the historical development of the voluntary payment doctrine and by examining the rationales for and against the doctrine’s application to consumer protection statutes.