Consumer Protection Laws
Have you ever gotten a spam text message? Or worse -- a phone call from a telemarketer on your smartphone? As it turns out, both of these unwanted communications may be prohibited by consumer protection laws. These laws help ensure safe products, fair business practices, truthful advertising, and a competitive marketplace. The Bureau of Consumer Protection, run by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), investigates alleged violations of these laws and can even take legal action against offending companies. If you suffered harm due to an unsafe product, deception, fraud, or discrimination, you can file a complaint with the FTC or a state regulatory board.
Altogether, more than 70 laws protect consumers at the federal level. These laws protect you from things like:
- Unwanted telemarketer phone calls
- Identity theft
- Disclosure of your credit history to your employer without your knowledge
- Price fixing
- Violations of your privacy
Consumer protection laws cover a wide range of conduct related to goods and services, both encouraging competition among businesses and protecting consumers from harm. States often have additional laws in place as well.
If someone hurts you, they are liable for your injury. Product liability is the liability the manufacturer or seller incurs for placing a dangerous product into your hand. Product liability claims are filed in state courts and can arise from defects with the design, manufacture, or marketing of a product. If you were injured by a product, consumer protection laws can help you get monetary damages from the companies that produced, installed, or sold the product.
You typically will have to prove that the product had an “unreasonably dangerous” defect which caused your injuries. Alternatively, you can bring a negligence claim against the manufacturer or seller.
Under federal law, an ad that intends to mislead consumers is illegal. For example, if a company advertises a mattress for a low price with the intention of enticing customers into the store to purchase more expensive mattresses and the company only stocks a couple of the low price mattresses, the FTC may prosecute the company for deceptive ads. If a court finds that a company released deceptive ads, the court can order the company to issue a cease and desist or run corrective ads. Additionally, consumers can sue the advertisers or join a class-action lawsuit.
Credit and Financing
Whether you're looking for a new apartment, signing a lease on a new car, or even getting a new job, everyone seems to want to check your credit history these days. The Fair Credit Reporting Act controls who can see your credit report and how you can fix any incorrect information. If you're like many Americans and are in some level of debt, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act limits the extent to which your creditors can hassle you. Other laws regulate errors on bank accounts and prohibit discrimination in lending.
Consumer rights also extend to loans. The Truth in Lending Act shields people from deception or intimidation when making borrowing decisions. Lenders must completely disclose the terms of a loan; specifically, the fees and the annual percentage rate. If you're in over your head because you were deceived, you can seek the help of an attorney and pursue a claim against the lender.
If you bought a car which turned out to have serious problems -- like not reliably starting -- you may have a claim under the federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act and your state's lemon laws. To successfully argue your claim, you will likely need to first notify the seller of the vehicle of the problem, in writing, and give the seller a chance to fix the car.
Identity theft is rampant, especially in our modern digital world where everyone seems to ask for your Social Security number (SSN). Hint: Rarely, if ever, should you provide your SSN over the phone. Another hint for protecting your identity: If you receive an e-mail notice from your bank or health insurance provider saying that you have received a message, don't click on the link. Go directly to the website and navigate to your inbox. This way you know for certain that you're entering your login information on the real website, and not on a scam site designed to steal your login info.
Get a Free Case Review from a Consumer Protection Attorney
From the gynecologist to the gym, if you are paying someone for goods or services, chances are there are consumer protection laws that protect the transaction. These laws exist to promote the public welfare while still encouraging a free market. Whether you were physically harmed, emotionally scarred, or financially injured, don't let a few lemons sour the market for you: get a free case review from a consumer protection attorney.
The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.
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