Consumer Rights - Consumer Protection Law
What is Consumer Rights Law?
Consumer rights and consumer protection law provides a way for individuals to fight back against abusive business practices. These laws are designed to hold sellers of goods and services accountable when they seek to profit by taking advantage of a consumer’s lack of information or bargaining power. Some conduct addressed by consumer rights laws is simply unfair, while other conduct can be described as outright fraud. Consumer rights laws exist at the federal and state level. They are enforced by government agencies, offices of attorneys general, and through individual and class action lawsuits filed by victims.
Types of Consumer Protection Cases
The most common kinds of abusive business practices occur when consumers are in particularly vulnerable circumstances. For example, when people fall behind on their bills, debt collectors are in a position to make life even more difficult by calling in the early morning or late night hours, making contact at a person’s place of business, and speaking to friends and family. Consumer rights laws prohibit this sort of activity. In fact, under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), such harassment can result in a statutory damage award of $1,000 for the victim, plus the attorney fees incurred in bringing the suit.
Predatory lending also forms the basis for a large number of consumer protection lawsuits. These schemes cover a broad range of conduct, such as charging exorbitant interest rates on credit cards and other loans, hiding fees and penalties in the fine print of agreements seldom read by customers, and applying payments to low-interest portions of a loan balance first. Sadly, the foreclosure crises of 2010 exposed numerous lending scams in the real estate market. Federal legislation aimed at predatory lending includes the Truth in Lending Act (TILA) and the Home Ownership and Equal Protection Act (HOEPA) of 1994.
Consumer rights laws also protect the public from false or misleading advertising. For example, automobile dealers have been known to advertise a vehicle at a reduced price in order to draw shoppers to the dealership. Once they arrive, however, that vehicle or sales price is no longer available. The dealer will then pressure shoppers into purchasing a vehicle on less favorable terms. In addition to these “bait and switch” advertising tactics, consumer rights laws address things like warranty misrepresentation, defective products, forced arbitration clauses, identity theft, and other types of harassment and fraud.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
In 1914, the U.S. Congress passed legislation creating the FTC, primarily in an effort to combat trusts and anti-competitive business practices. While the agency continues that effort, its role has since been expanded to cover a variety of consumer rights issues. The FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection is tasked with enforcing federal laws dealing with unfair or deceptive practices throughout the consumer economy. For instance, the bureau has taken an important step to curb telemarketing fraud through the creation of the National Do Not Call Registry. This popular service allows people to bar for-profit organizations from making unsolicited calls to their home telephones.
Consumer Rights Class Action Lawsuits
One problem facing consumer rights victims is the relatively small amount of economic damages they suffer as a result of a company’s improper conduct. When a consumer falls victim to fraud by purchasing a product or service that does not measure up to the seller’s promises, the consumer may suffer a loss equal to the amount paid, and perhaps some incidental expenses as well. But in all likelihood, the loss to the consumer will represent only a fraction of the amount of money it would take to bring a lawsuit against the seller. Consumers have the option of filing a complaint with federal or state authorities in an attempt to have sanctions brought against a fraudulent company, but this will not help consumers get their money back.
A class action lawsuit tips the balance of power in favor of the consumer. An individual whose rights have been violated can join together with others who have similar claims against the same defendant. Due to the economy of scale that exists with a class action lawsuit, a group of victims can present a serious litigation threat to even the largest corporations. Attorneys who handle these cases work on a contingency basis, meaning they only get paid if and when the victims are compensated. Furthermore, victims with claims that are the basis of a class action suit may decide to “opt-out” and pursue the matter individually when it is in their best interests to do so.
Learn if You Have a Consumer Protection Claim
If you believe a merchant has violated your consumer rights, it makes sense to speak with an attorney. You may be able to collect financial compensation, and send a message to the offender that abusive business practices will not be tolerated. Schedule an attorney consultation to learn more.
Know Your Rights!
- What Are Consumer Rights?
The phrase “consumer rights” is thrown around rather freely these days. But what are consumer rights? Are they written down somewhere? Where do they come from? What are the rights?
Articles About Consumer Law
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- Debt Harassment and the Florida Consumer Collections Practices ActFlorida Statutes (2011) §§559.55-559.785, also known as the Florida Consumer Collections Practices Act, is designed to help protect consumers from illegal practices by collection agencies. Those who violate these laws could be held criminally as well as civilly responsible.
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Articles written by attorneys and experts worldwide discussing legal aspects related to Civil Rights including: constitutional law, consumer law, discrimination, human rights, native populations, privacy law, public law and sexual harassment.
Consumer Law - US
- ABA - Consumer Protection Committee
The Consumer Protection Committee
- Aviation Consumer Protection Division
- Consumer Credit Protection Act
The United States federal wage garnishment law, widely known as the Consumer Credit Protection Act guards employees from discharge by their employers because their wages have been garnished in any one week.
- Consumer Product Safety Commission
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risks of serious injury or death from thousands of types of consumer products under the agency's jurisdiction.
- Consumer Protection - Definition
Consumer protection laws are designed to ensure fair competition and the free flow of truthful information in the marketplace.
- Consumer Rights and Protection
Consumer rights and responsabilities explained in the Lectric Law Library.
- Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA)
The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) is a United States federal law enacted as an amendment to the Truth in Lending Act (codified at 15 U.S.C. § 1601 et seq.).
- Fair Credit Reporting Act
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is a United States federal law that regulates the collection, dissemination, and use of consumer information, including consumer credit information.
- Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), is a United States statute added in 1978 as Title VIII of the Consumer Credit Protection Act.
- Federal Trade Commission - Consumer Complaints
The Federal Trade Commission, the nation's consumer protection agency, collects complaints about companies, business practices, identity theft, and episodes of violence in the media.
- Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS)
The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is the public health agency in the U.S. Department of Agriculture responsible for ensuring that the nation's commercial supply of meat, poultry, and egg products is safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled and packaged.
- FTC - Consumer Information
This section of the FTC website offers practical information on a variety of consumer topics. The information here can help you avoid rip-offs and exercise your consumer rights. Education is the first line of defense against fraud and deception; it can help you make well-informed decisions before you spend your money.
- National Consumer Law Center (NCLC)
NCLC is the nation’s consumer law expert, helping consumers, their advocates, and public policy makers use powerful and complex consumer laws on behalf of low-income and vulnerable Americans seeking economic justice.
Organizations For Consumer Law
- Association for Consumer Research
- Better Business Bureau
- Consumer Action
- Consumer Specialty Products Association (CSPA)
- Consumers International (CI)
- Federal Citizen Information Center (FCIC)
- National Association of Consumer Advocates (NACA)
- National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW)
- National Consumers League
- Organic Consumers Association (OCA)