What Are Consumer Lawyers?
Consumer issues can arise whenever a person purchases goods or services as a consumer. There are many different consumer protection laws at both the federal and state level, all of which are intended to protect consumers from unfair and dishonest practices by sellers. The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) is a major federal agency that is tasked with protecting consumer rights.
Additionally, the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection enforces the multiple different federal laws which are meant to prevent exploitative and deceptive practices throughout the consumer economy. Consumer protection laws often involve many different legal concepts.
A consumer protection lawyer mostly advocates for their client’s rights in civil lawsuits, in order to ensure that businesses are actually adhering to all regulations placed on them. A consumer lawyer may decide to work through the Consumer Protection Agency. This is an agency whose duty is to regulate the consumer industry. They license and regulate professionals, conduct investigations into consumer and financial scams, and criminally prosecute those scammers.
The Consumer Protection Agency can also help injured people bring civil lawsuits against fraudulent businesses or professionals. Typically the Consumer Protection Agency will conduct an investigation into the alleged fraudulent business misconduct, and make a determination as to whether the business was fraudulent.
What Do Consumer Lawyers Cover?
Consumer law largely focuses on civil remedies to solve problems. The most common example of this would be a lawsuit. However, consumer protection law sometimes also allows for criminal sanctions. This means that prosecutors may file charges in cases involving criminal misconduct, such as consumer fraud or embezzlement.
A consumer protection attorney may work in any of the following practices:
- Advocacy groups, working on behalf of a public interest organization;
- Large law firms which work to help corporations understand and adhere to all relevant consumer protection measures;
- Small law firms, as well as solo practices, working on behalf of individuals;
- In-house counsel, such as a consumer law attorney working directly for credit companies; and
- Government agencies, such as working to enforce consumer protection laws by utilizing executive enforcement proceedings and other judicial actions.
Many attorneys choose to specialize in consumer law because they are interested in the ever-changing aspect of consumer protection. They will need to frequently re-educate themselves on consumer law in order to stay current and relevant. Such positions are generally stable and allow for long-term employment. Some even go into the field with hopes of pursuing political aspirations, as a position as attorney general could eventually lead to a bid for governor or congress.
However, many attorneys decide to specialize in consumer protection because they genuinely care about protecting other people and ensuring their needs are met. They often find personal reward in addition to a stable living.
What Are Some Common Legal Issues Consumers Face?
Some common consumer issues are:
- Consumers’ lack of information or bargaining power;
- False advertising and deceptive business practices;
- Consumer fraud issues;
- Predatory lending and financial scams;
- Issues regarding product safety and defects. It is important to note that there are various defendant parties that may be held civilly liable in cases involving product defects. For example, the store that sold the product, the wholesaler, and the manufacturer may all be somewhat responsible for a defective product that resulted in an injury to a consumer; and
- Personal injuries resulting from dangerous or defective products.
Other common legal issues that consumers may face include:
- Breaches of contract and breaches of consumer warranties;
- Product recalls and products liability claims;
- Identity fraud; and
- Getting billed for products and services that were ultimately not provided.
In order to pursue a solution to these issues, anyone who feels their consumer rights have been violated should do the following:
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”);
- File a complaint with their state’s Attorney General Consumer Protection Division;
- File a complaint with their Better Business Bureau (“BBB”);
- File a complaint in small claims court; and/or
- Hire a consumer protection attorney if the case involves larger monetary damages, or the consumer feels that the various administrative and state remedies are insufficient.
Do You Need to Hire a Consumer Lawyer?
If you are experiencing any legal issues associated with consumer protection, you should consult with a consumer lawyer. An experienced and local consumer law attorney will know if there are any existing class action lawsuits you can join, or if you should begin your own. An experienced attorney will also understand your state’s specific laws regarding the matter, and how best to represent you in a legal manner.
Additionally, an attorney will be able to help you initiate a private civil claim against the party who harmed you, by filing a lawsuit against them. Next, an attorney will gather all necessary evidence for a successful lawsuit, and represent your interests in court.
If you have been accused of consumer fraud, a consumer lawyer can help you clear your name and assist you in returning to good standing. In any case, a consumer protection lawyer can help protect your rights in any civil lawsuits or disputes that may arise from consumer issues.