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What are “Consumer Rights”? How do Consumer Protection Laws protect Consumers?
Consumer rights refer to those rights and privileges that are given to consumers in order to protect them from fraud or abuse by salespersons, shopkeepers, or manufacturers. For example, all consumers have the right to have product information truthfully disclosed to them.
Consumer protection laws are designed to ensure that consumer rights are not violated. Consumer protection laws are considered to be a form of government regulation. They usually regulate the activities of merchants and producers of products. Merchants by definition are those who are skilled or knowledgeable in a certain area of trade. A consumer will usually have less experience and technical knowledge compared to a merchant; consumer protection laws aim to bridge this gap by encouraging fair practices and truthful disclosure.
Who are considered to be “Consumers”?
The legal definition of a “consumer” is any person who purchases goods or services whose primary use is personal rather than commercial.
For example, a purchaser of cloth who makes clothes for their own use is likely to be categorized as a consumer. On the other hand, an individual who purchases bulk amounts of cloth for the purpose of manufacturing and selling clothes will usually not be considered a consumer under the legal definition.
Most legal disputes involving consumer protection laws usually revolve around this definition of consumer. In any consumer protection lawsuit, the burden of proof is on the consumer to prove that they satisfy the definition of “consumer”.
What are some Examples of Consumer Protection Laws?
Consumer protection laws are created both by federal and state law-making entities. Federal protection laws are usually enforced by the Federal Trade Commission. State consumer protection laws vary widely according to state. For example, among the 50 states, California is known to have the most comprehensive consumer protection laws, probably due to the presence and activity of consumer protection lobbying groups in the state.
Since there are so many different types of goods, services, and transactions, consumer protection laws can cover a very wide variety of subjects and issues. Some commonly cited consumer protection laws include:
- The Fair Credit Reporting Act
- The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
- The Fair Credit Billing Act
- The Federal Trade Commission Cooling-Off Rule
Can a Consumer file a lawsuit for violations of Consumer Protection Laws?
Depending on the type of violation involved, a consumer may file to recover personal losses, or they may file a class action lawsuit on behalf of a class of consumers who have been injured.
In any consumer protection lawsuit, the defendant must prove that a law or statute regulates the issue in question, and that the defendant engaged the type of misconduct prohibited by such statute. The consumer(s) may be able to recover damages for injuries or lost profits caused by the violation. Alternatively, a judge may issue the business an injunction, which a court document ordering the defendant to cease dangerous or illegal activities.
Enforcement of consumer protection laws is largely accomplished by government agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission or the U.S. Department of Justice. These agencies will investigate violations for the purpose of prescribing penalties for businesses or merchants.
Many consumer rights laws (especially state laws) encourage consumers to report any instances of consumer fraud, abuse, or violations. In fact, several of these laws actually encourage consumers to file a private lawsuit, as a means of assisting government enforcement efforts.
Do I need a Lawyer for Disputes over Consumer Rights and Protections?
Consumer rights and protections are heavily regulated. This is due to the possibility of large numbers of people being injured by the activities of a single business. If you believe that your consumer rights have been violated, or if a consumer protection law has been violated, you should contact a lawyer for advice and counsel. Your attorney will be able to describe whether any violations have been committed, and whether you may be entitled to recovery in a court of law.
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Last Modified: 08-02-2013 02:58 PM PDT
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