Consumer protection law refers to the patchwork, sometimes overlapping federal and state statutes that protect consumers from unlawful or abusive business practices. These laws are designed to deter unfair marketing strategies, violations of privacy, harassment, and outright fraud.
Multiple federal agencies have their hands in consumer protection. The FDA regulates food and drugs. The FCC oversees radio, television, and digital communication. The FTC and their Bureau of Consumer Protection is the primary agency that handles unfair, deceptive, or anti-competitive business practices. They log complaints, publish statistics, and take legal action against offending parties.
A summary of ALL of the consumer protection laws would be hundreds of pages long and horribly boring. Nonetheless, there are a handful of areas within consumer protection law that every American should be aware of:
Robocalls and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)
Telemarketing sales calls with recorded voices are typically illegal, unless you have given consent to the caller. Notable exceptions to this rule include debt collectors, political calls, charities, and medical calls (like appointment reminders or a notice from the pharmacy that your prescription is filled.)
If you are getting repeated calls, you should add your number to the Do Not Call Registry, and file a complaint with the FTC. If the calls persist, you may be entitled to damages under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, up to $1000 per call. These cases often reach a settlement before going to trial.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
Like robocalls, debt collection calls can be incessant to the point of disrupting a person’s life. To combat situations that cross the line into harassment or abuse, the FTC outlines the do’s and don’t of debt collection in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The law states they cannot call all hours of the night, contact you at work, use profanity, threaten violence, contact a third party, and more.
An attorney is a powerful tool in fighting back against these illegal methods. Not only can they help take legal action against the creditor’s abusive practices, but they also know how to avoid repossessions, access proper credit counseling, and evaluate your best course of action. Sometimes the attorney can help you reach a settlement.
The Implied Warranty
While written warranties are covered by federal law, individual states enforce implied warranties (sometimes called an “implied warranty of merchantability”). They state an item works as intended for a reasonable amount of time, and was of fair value for money spent. Examples exist in state Lemon Laws, which apply to vehicle sales. Effectively, each state outlines what it means to say a car “works”, what a reasonable amount of repairs are, and under what conditions the buyer can be refunded.
Some form of the implied warranty applies to nearly every purchase you make, new or used. Retailers can sometimes get around the implied warranty by listing items “as is,” though several states do not support this disclaimer.Typically, refunds and returns solve these problems. When a seller refuses to offer a refund or exchange, legal intervention is likely to help.
Consider contacting a consumer rights attorney.
If you believe a business is operating in a way that is unfair, harassing, or even abusive, there are avenues you can take. In addition to logging a complaint with the FTC, consider contacting our consumer rights attorneys at The Law Offices of Jeffrey Lohman. Our team knows the federal and state laws designed to protect you; we can help you determine your best course of action. Contact us today.