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Consumer Protection

A group of laws and organizations designed to ensure the rights of consumers

Consumer Protection

Consumer protection refers to fair standards and practices. They apply in any arena where people need to procure services or products. There are several ways to improve consumer protection. They include regulations for sellers and manufacturers and educating customers.

What do consumers need protecting from, how is that done, and who’s responsible? Let’s answer those questions.

Why Is Consumer Protection Necessary?

Consumer protection helps customers understand what they’re buying or procuring. It means being able to compare products effectively by being provided with enough information. It might also look at the marketplace as a whole to ensure that it’s fair. Education on rights and responsibilities is crucial to effective protection.The rules and regulations prevent companies from using deceptive, unfair, or fraudulent practices. It’s enforced by allowing consumers to report business. Investigations occur, and information is gathered. It might also be possible to sue a company or bring criminal charges against them.

Who Protects Consumers?

There are several bodies that protect consumers. They include:

  • The Consumer Protection site on USA.gov – for information about scams
  • The Federal Trade Commission Consumer Response Center – general protection 
  • The Department of Justice’s Elder Fraud Hotline – assists older adults in filing complaints
  • The Internet Crime Complaint Center – for victims of internet crime
  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – for financial services
  • National Center for Disaster Fraus – for scams, fraud, and attempted fraud related to disasters or COVID-19
  • Saferproducts.gov – for reporting incidents of harm from consumer products

The Federal Trade Commission carries out its work through the Bureau of Consumer Protection. Within that, there are divisions for:

  • Privacy and Identity Protection
  • Advertising Practices
  • Consumer and Business Education 
  • Enforcement
  • Marketing Practices
  • Financial Practices
  • Consumer Response and Operations
  • Litigation Technology and Analysis
  • Technology, Research, and Investigation

Consumer Rights

The main federal law for consumer protection is the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTC Act). There are Unfair and Deceptive Acts and Practices (UDAP) statutes in each of the 50 states. Each state interprets and enforces them differently.

The consumer rights movement was championed by John F. Keendet in 1962. Since then, eight basic consumer rights have been established.

  1. The Right To Safety – being protected against services, products, and production processes that are hazardous.
  2. The Right To Choose – being able to choose from a range of services or products with competitive prices and satisfactory quality.
  3. The Right To Be Informed – being given the facts to make an informed choice without misleading labels or adverts. 
  4. The Right To Be Heard – being represented in government policy and in product and service development.
  5. The Right To Satisfaction of Basic Needs – being able to access essential services and goods, such as shelter, food, water, sanitation, and clothing
  6. The Right To A Healthy Environment – being able to live and work in a non-threatening environment now and in the future.
  7. The Right To Consumer Education – being able to acquire knowledge and skills to make informed choices about services and products while understanding rights and responsibilities.
  8. The Right To Redress – being able to make a claim and expect fair settlement following misrepresentation or unsatisfactory services or goods.

Actions and Advocacy

UDAPs aren’t interpreted and enforced equally in each state. As a result, advocacy organizations, such as the National Consumer Federation, provide support.

Trust

They work with consumers and companies to understand how trust can be built and maintained. Their activities include sharing best practices, complaint handling, and consumer feedback.

Vulnerable People

People with an illness or disability or experiencing bereavement can be vulnerable at particular times. Advocacy groups specifically work to speak up for these consumers who are more likely to be exploited.

Sources

https://www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-information

https://www.ftc.gov/about-ftc/bureaus-offices/bureau-consumer-protection/our-divisions

https://thencf.org.uk/about-ncf/consumers/

https://www.nclc.org/images/pdf/car_sales/UDAP_Report_Feb09.pdf

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