Consumer protection is an umbrella term covering a group of laws and organizations that protect the rights of consumers and foster the free flow of accurate information in the marketplace. Consumer protection laws are designed to prevent businesses from engaging in fraud or unfair practices, to protect individuals from scam artists, and identity thieves and crooks.
Consumer protection involves everyday issues and threats like identity theft, sales contracts, lemon laws, travel and fraud. A consumer is anyone who acquires goods or services for direct use or ownership.
All consumers should learn how to do simple things like manage a credit score, read the fine print on a gift card and understand the importance of choosing a secure email password. It's also important to know when the law is on your side and when to contact an attorney to help you enforce your rights.
Organizations and agencies like the Federal Trade Commission and Better Business Bureau promote and sometimes enforce consumer protection laws. But if you are victimized and a consumer law has been broken, the legal system is one place you can go to be made whole again.
Consumer Protection Laws
Consumer protection laws protect individual consumers from being taken advantage of – be it by a large corporation, or a local business. Consumer transactions such as buying, selling and returning goods are regulated at both the state and federal levels. Many consumer protection laws also involve credit, banking and related financial matters.
Some consumer laws require disclosure of detailed information about products — particularly in areas where safety or public health is an issue. Lawmakers have passed a host of food labeling laws, for instance. The nutritional labels on food products are the result of consumer protection laws. Furthermore, food and drug safety laws have become more prevalent as lawmakers seek to prevent consumers from being harmed by improperly prepared goods.
Identity Theft and Online Scams
Identity theft is one of the fastest-growing crimes in the nation, robbing its victims of time, money and peace of mind. Identity thieves often use the Internet but can also obtain sensitive personal data from trash cans and other unsecured locations.
The virtual world is fraught with real world dangers, which is why consumers should exercise caution online. A lot of questions come to mind when dealing with the online world, like: Should you post photos of your children online? How do you protect your identity online? How do you respond to "spam" email? FindLaw's resources on Online Scams provide answers to those questions and more.
Travel and Leisure
Even travel and sporting events can trigger consumer protection issues. Traveling typically involves a number of consumer agreements and contracts, including rental car agreements and airline reservations. Consumers often form contracts without even knowing it, like those printed on the back of tickets for travel or for sports events. Even just parking in a lot may have legal consequences that consumers are unaware of.
An experienced consumer protection or personal injury attorney is well versed in state and federal laws protecting consumers and has experience pursuing such lawsuits. FindLaw's Consumer Protection section has articles on federal aviation rules, articles about protecting your identity, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, state-specific information about lemon laws and much more.