Consumer law involves all of the regulations and statutes that seek to create a more equitable balance for buyers in the marketplace and prevent sellers from using dishonest tactics. A consumer is any individual who purchases goods or services, which may be sold by manufacturers, wholesalers, or retailers.
Both state and federal laws play a role in regulating consumer law. These laws range from prohibiting false advertising and imposing product safety measures to regulating debt collection practices and protecting consumers’ identifying information. Consumers often find themselves needing legal help after falling victim to an online scam, purchasing a car or other product without being told of hidden defects, or losing money in financial schemes, such as identity theft or unauthorized credit card charges.
Terms to Know
Consumer Goods – Personal property purchased primarily by an individual for personal, family, or household uses
Consumer Protection Laws – Laws designed to protect consumers against unfair trade and credit practices involving faulty and dangerous goods or dishonest claims or tactics
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 to reduce the unreasonable risk of injury to consumers
Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act – A federal law requiring that warranties for consumer goods be fully and conspicuously disclosed in readily understood language
Equal Credit Opportunity Act – A federal law prohibiting creditors from discriminating against applicants on the basis of 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
Over the past decades, lawmakers have been more proactive in passing consumer protection laws. As a result, merchants and sellers sometimes have trouble keeping up with new laws and altering their systems and practices to comply. When businesses take too long to comply, however, consumers may want to file complaints with state regulatory agencies or file lawsuits against the business owners. Hiring an attorney early in this process can help you decide the best method for seeking enforcement of consumer protection laws.
Although consumer law mostly focuses on civil remedies, such as lawsuits, to solve problems, some consumer protection laws also allow criminal sanctions. Prosecutors could file charges in cases of criminal misconduct, such as fraud or embezzlement.