Consumer protection laws refer to all of the statutes and regulations which are enacted to protect buyers in the marketplace and prevent sellers of products and services from using dishonest tactics.

The term “consumer” refers to any individual who purchases goods or services and these can be sold by manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers or any other type of business. Consumer protection is governed by both state and federal laws.

What are Some of the Important Concepts to Understand?

In order to understand consumer protection laws, it is useful to be familiar with some legal concepts such as:

  • Express Warranty: This is a written guarantee which is included in or on the packaging of a product. It typically contains promises regarding the quality of a product and will often include instructions for a refund of defective products. Express warranties may be specifically tailored to each product in terms of coverage and expiration date and not all products contain express warranties.
  • Implied Warranty: Even if a product does not contain an express warranty, consumer protection laws automatically provide implied warranties which are meant to protect consumers. These warranties guarantee that the product will be of suitable quality and will perform  as advertised when used as intended.

What are Some Examples of Consumer Protection Laws?

There is a wide variety of consumer protection laws and these can range from prohibiting false advertising and mandating product safety measures to regulating debt collection practices and protecting the identity information of consumers.

At the federal level, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulates the consumer marketplace in a variety of ways. Some of the major federal laws on consumer protection are:

  • The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act: This is a federal law which requires that warranties for consumer goods be fully and conspicuously disclosed in readily understood language.
  • The Fair Credit Billing Act: This law requires a credit card company to promptly and appropriately handle mistakes regarding billing.
  • The Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure Act: This precludes credit card companies from issuing rate increases without giving prior notice.
  • The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act: This prohibits the use of deceptive and unfair techniques when collecting bills.
  • The Truth in Lending Act: This requires a lender to provide details about the loan such as the loan length and the money that has to be paid.
  • The Consumer Product Safety Act: This protects consumers by regulating products that are potentially dangerous.
  • The Used Car Rule: This requires a dealer to display a “Buyer’s Guide” in the vehicle window.

What are Some of the Other Regulating Agencies?

The federal government formed the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) after the 2008 financial crisis to protect people from deceptive and exploitative practices such as predatory lending. The CFPB covers financial transactions such as:

  • Money transfers;
  • Bank accounts;
  • Credit cards;
  • Credit reports;
  • Mortgage, auto, student, payday and personal loans; and/or
  • Money transfers

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is another major regulatory organization and it regulates consumer-related product safety issues, including those which involve food, drugs, medical devices, cosmetics and tobacco products.

The laws of federal agencies are enforced by the U.S. Department of Justice both civilly and criminally. It is also important to note that in addition to federal laws, there are also state laws on consumer protection. If you need help understanding the laws in your particular state, you can contact your state’s consumer protection division.

Should I Contact a Lawyer?

There are many consumer protection laws at both the federal and state level and it is important to understand how the laws affect individuals and businesses in particular situations. If you believe you are in a situation that should fall under the protection of a consumer protection law, then it’s important to first contact the FTC to submit a consumer complaint.

While the FTC cannot get your money back, it’s an important first step to make so it is clear that you already reported the defendant. This will also help you when you contact a local financial lawyer to help you file and defend your claim.