Consumer Law and Regulations

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Consumer protection regulations protect consumers from unfair, abusive, and deceptive business practices.  These regulations are enforced by the consumer affairs division of various federal, state, and local agencies.  Private consumer protection associations also play an important role in ensuring that consumer protection violations are brought to the attention of the appropriate enforcement agencies.

Types of Consumer Protection Law and Regulations

Consumer law acts regulate a variety of businesses ranging from banking and lending to e-commerce and auto sales to telephone and utility service to Internet marketing and business opportunities.  Specific examples of the types of business practices which give rise to a consumer affairs complaint include:

  • Identity Theft;
  • Predatory Lending;
  • Debt Collection Abuses;
  • Lemon Law Violations;
  • Deceptive Marketing and Advertising; and
  • The Sale of Unsafe Products.

Consumer Protection Laws Commonly Violated

Violations of federal laws commonly give rise to consumer affairs complaints.  An individual or entity that violates the consumer law act may be subject to both civil and criminal penalties.  The following is a list of a few of the laws which are most commonly violated:

  • The Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act – Makes identity theft a federal crime and imposes a mandatory prison sentence of 15 years and a maximum fine of $250,000 for criminals convicted under this law;
  • The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act – Expands the Fair Credit Report Act and gives consumers who have been victims of identity theft additional protections and rights;
  • The Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act – Creates the crime of aggravated identity theft and enhances the sentences of criminals who are convicted of aggravated identity theft;
  • The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act – Outlaws debtor harassment and prohibits abusive, threatening and unfair collection tactics by collection agencies;
  • The Truth-in-Lending Act – Regulates lending practices and requires lenders to disclose the true cost of a loan;
  • The Fair Credit Reporting Act – Promotes accuracy in consumer credit reports and requires credit bureaus and creditors to implement measures to protect the privacy of consumers;
  • The Fair Credit Billing Act – Amends the Truth-in-Lending Act and governs credit and charge card billing errors;
  • The Electronic Funds Transfer Act – Provides consumers protection for transfers made with debit cards or via other electronic means and limits a consumer's liability for unauthorized electronic transfers; and
  • The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act -  Federal Lemon Law which governs new product purchased for more than $25.00 which comes with a warranty.

Where to File A Complaint

A consumer protection complaint can be filed with the consumer complaint division of the FTC or your state consumer protection office.  Complaints may also be filed with the consumer complaint division of Attorney General's Office in your state.

Additionally, there are a variety of consumer complaint websites where consumers can post complaints.  Popular consumer complaint websites are www.ripoffreport.com and www.econsumer.gov.  Moreover, private and non-profit consumer protection associations are available to help consumers whose rights have been violated.  The Better Business Bureau is the most well known consumer protection association.

Getting Legal Help

If you believe you have been the victim of a consumer protection violation, you should immediately act to protect your rights.  Contact a consumer protection attorney in your area to determine whether you have a valid claim and what steps you will need to take be compensated for any damage you may have suffered.

 

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