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What Is Consumer Law?

Consumer law involves the regulations and statutes that create a balance between buyers and sellers. It also prevents sellers from using dishonest tactics. A consumer buys goods or services from manufacturers, wholesalers, or retailers.

State and federal laws play a role in regulating consumer law. Consumer laws include:

  • The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). This law bars debt collectors from using unfair and deceptive methods to collect outstanding debts.
  • The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) protects information gathered by consumer reporting agencies. Along with credit card agencies, the FCRA protects data collected by medical offices. The FCRA protects consumers from identity theft.
  • The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) is an industry-wide standard that all retail and wholesale companies must meet for credit card protection.
  • The Lanham Act (15 U.S.C. § 1125(a) bans false advertising and deceptive practices.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) monitors companies for scams and unlawful business practices. The state attorney general or consumer protection agency may handle state laws.

Terms To Know

  • Consumer goods — Goods bought by a person for personal, family, or household uses
  • Consumer protection laws — Laws that protect consumers against unfair trade practices
  • Warranty — An express or implied promise that a product or service is of acceptable quality or standards
  • Consumer Product Safety Commission — A federal agency that establishes mandatory product safety standards
  • Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act — A federal law requiring that manufacturers make consumer goods warranties fully and conspicuously disclosed in readily understood language
  • Equal Credit Opportunity Act — A federal law banning creditors from discriminating against applicants based on race, color, religion, national origin, age, sex, or marital status

For more legal definitions, visit the FindLaw Legal Dictionary.

Other Considerations When Hiring a Consumer Lawyer

Lawmakers have been more proactive in passing consumer protection laws. Merchants and sellers may need help keeping up with this area of law. Consumer rights are critical, but sellers need legal advice from a consumer law attorney to understand changes.

Laws provide a "safe harbor" period for businesses to transition to new regulations. When companies fail to comply, consumers can complain to state regulators. They can also bring legal action or join class action suits. You should consult a consumer protection lawyer when you believe you have a consumer law issue. Enforcing consumer protection laws is no easy matter for the layperson.

Consumer law focuses on civil remedies, such as lawsuits. Some consumer protection laws also allow criminal sanctions. Such laws have titles like Florida's Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act (UDTPA). Most criminal sanctions are injunctive, not penal.

Contact a consumer protection lawyer immediately to explore your legal options if you are facing a consumer law issue.

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