As consumers, you have a right to consumer protection from sellers who engage in abusive business practices. Consumer protection laws are intended to hold merchants liable when they find ways to be profitable at the expense of consumers, who are often not well-informed, and who possess less bargaining power.
One type of consumer protection that is available to you is the right to be free from harassing phone calls from debt collectors who telephone you early in the morning or late at night, contact you at your place of business, or communicate with your friends and family. If you are the victim of such harassment, you may be able to recover a statutory damage award of $1,000 and attorney’s fees under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
You also have the right to be free from predatory lending, which has been the principal complaint in several lawsuits. For instance, consumers have been charged extremely high interest rates when applying for credit cards and loans, in which fees and penalties are often concealed in the fine print that most consumers do not take the time to read. And when consumers start to pay off a loan balance, lenders may apply such payments to the part of the loan balance that is associated with the higher interest rate.
Such predatory lending practices were common during 2010, when there was a housing crisis marked by many foreclosures. There are certain laws that offer protection to consumers against such abusive business practices. They are the Truth in Lending Act (TILA) and the Home Ownership and Equal Protection Act (HOEPA) of 1994.
In addition, consumers are protected from false or misleading advertising, an example of which is the advertisement by car dealers of vehicles at a lower price in an effort to attract people to the dealership. Upon arrival at the dealership, though, they realize that the reduced sales price is no longer the current price of the car, at which point the dealer tries to persuade consumers to buy a car on less favorable terms.
There are also consumer rights laws in place to protect you from such practices as warranty misrepresentation, forced arbitration clauses, defective products, and identity theft. The Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Bureau of Consumer Protection has as its objective the enforcement of federal laws that address unfair or deceptive business practices. For example, the bureau has limited the amount of telemarketing fraud by creating the National Do Not Call Registry, which enables individuals to prevent for-profit companies from making unsolicited calls to them on their home phones.
If you believe that you have been the victim of unfair and deceptive business practices, you should consult a consumer rights lawyer, who may be able to help you recover financial compensation, and communicate to the person or company in violation of consumer rights laws that such behavior will not go unpunished.
Authored by Roxanne Minott, LegalMatch Legal Writer and Attorney at Law