Consumer Protection Overview

As a consumer, you often have to rely on businesses to do the right thing and follow the appropriate consumer protection laws. But what if they don’t? Spam calls, predatory credit lines, and false advertising are all violations of basic consumer protections that can damage your credit or leave you vulnerable to scams.

There are more than 70 federal laws that can cover you as a consumer. Knowing these rules and how they apply to you can help you protect yourself and your finances.

Robocalls, Debt Collectors and Phone Scams

Getting barraged with spam calls, telemarketing calls, or calls from debt collectors can be incredibly disruptive and upsetting. But often, these kinds of calls aren’t even legal.

Spam and Telemarketers

One way to help limit how many spam calls you get is to register on the national Do Not Call Registry by calling 1-888-382-1222 from the phone number you want to add. While this should help limit the number of calls you get, it won’t stop all of them. Many companies use auto-dialers and don’t bother adhering to the laws that say they can’t connect to numbers of the registry. You may also want to block the numbers that call you day in and day out.

It’s important not to answer these calls, as that can prove to the caller that your number is actively being used, which encourages them to continue calling.

Limiting where you give out your phone number will help as well. Signing up for discounts or membership programs with different stores with your phone number or entering your number into websites can lead to your number being sold to these obnoxious telemarketing and spam call companies. Instead, consider making a “throwaway” email account on any number of free email services. Use this account to sign up for programs that collect your data and use it for that purpose alone. It’ll help you keep junk mail from piling up in your personal accounts.

Debt Collectors

If you’ve fallen behind on credit payments, you may find yourself harassed by collection agencies. But you have rights that can be enforced to minimize or even stop these calls entirely.

Debt collectors are required by law to limit when and how often they can contact you. They can’t, for example, call you in the middle of the night, or call you repeatedly throughout the day.

If you tell them you prefer to communicate in writing, they’re also required by law to stop with the phone calls and send you letters instead.

If a debt collector keeps calling you and violating your consumer rights, you can report them to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau at (855) 411-2372.

Phone Scammers

Sometimes, con artists will try to use your phone number to scam you out of money. Never give out your financial information over the phone, login information for any secure accounts, or personal information like your birthday, social security number, or family members’ names. Legitimate businesses know not to ask for this information over the phone.

Scammers will also try to make vague statements, such as telling you there’s a problem with your credit card, but will be unable to tell you what company the card is with or what the account number for your card is. Never give this information up yourself. If they claim to be from your bank, an attorney, or any other “official” sounding source, hang up and call those places directly. If the call you received was legitimate, they’ll be able to take over from there.

If anyone tries to demand you give them a payment over the phone, you should insist they send you a letter instead. If they really have a legitimate account with you, they should have your address on file.

Dangerous and Defective Products

Sometimes, people are hurt by the products they buy. This could be because a foreign object, like a piece of plastic, made its way into food, a product was made incorrectly, or there was an inherent design flaw that made it dangerous from the get go.

Whatever the case may be, if you’re injured by a product you purchased, you have the right to try and collect damages from the seller, manufacturer, or nearly anyone else on the supply chain. Products that don’t have appropriate warnings, didn’t include necessary safety features, or were mislabeled are also subject to liability. This also applies to foods that don’t list correct and accurate ingredients.

Credit Lines and Loans

Have you ever gone to checkout at a retail outlet and received an offer for a store credit card that would give you a discount on your purchase? With increasing frequency, stores are offering their own lines of credit. In some cases, these offers can be misleading and predatory.

When it comes to your credit, the Federal Consumer Credit Protection Act can protect your rights and interests. This act provides guidelines that credit card companies have to follow. Some of these protections include barring credit card companies from arbitrarily raising interest rates or forbidding companies from giving you certain credit limits without first assessing your ability to afford payments. Unreasonable fees are also forbidden. You should always read the fine print on any credit agreements, and don’t sign up for them impulsively. Take applications home with you to read them over before you commit to anything.

In What Other Ways Are Consumers Protected?

These are just some examples of your rights and protections as a consumer. Read our articles on more refined topics to learn more. You can also contact a local consumer protection attorney to help you examine your evidence in a potential consumer law case, and evaluate if you might have a case for any violations.

Speak to an Experienced Consumer Protection Attorney Today

This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified consumer protection lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local consumer protection attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.

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