Simply put, consumer protection laws are government regulations (both state and federal) put in place to protect consumers from fraud or abuse by salespersons, shopkeepers, or manufacturers.

A consumer is any person who purchases goods or services for personal use. The purpose of these laws is to ensure that information about a product is truthfully disclosed to consumers.

How are Consumer Protection Laws Enforced?

The federal consumer protection laws are very comprehensive. They cover a range goods, services, and transactions. Some examples are:

  • The Fair Credit Reporting Act: This law regulates how a consumer’s credit information is used. For example, it aims to ensure that information on a person’s credit report is accurate.
  • The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act: This law regulates the way that debt is collected. The goal is to avoid abusive and deceptive practices by debt collectors.
  • The Fair Credit Billing Act: This law allows consumers to dispute and correct billing errors made by a creditor, such as a credit card company.

The above are just a few of the federal consumer protection laws. Generally, the Federal Trade Commission is the main regulatory body that enforces these laws and makes sure anyone who violates these laws are penalized.

At the state level, consumer protection laws vary.  For instance, Montana consumer law may differ from South Dakota consumer law. While each state has laws prohibiting deceptive practices, depending on the state you live in consumer protection may be more strictly regulated.

Can you File a Lawsuit for Violations of Consumer Protection Laws?

Depending on the circumstance, a consumer may be able to file an individual lawsuit to recover personal losses. Many consumer protection laws, especially in the states, encourage consumers to report any instances of consumer fraud or abuse.

Some laws even encourage consumers to file a private lawsuit to help with protection of consumer rights. In addition, a consumer may be asked to participate in a class action lawsuit on behalf of a class of consumers who have been injured by the same company.

In a consumer protection lawsuit, the following issues will generally be addressed:

  • Whether the law applies to the issue at hand;
  • If the defendant engaged the type of misconduct prohibited by the law; and
  • Whether the plaintiff qualifies as a consumer.

The consumer may be able to recover damages for and injuries or lost profits caused by the violation of a consumer protection law.  Alternatively, a judge may issue an injunction ordering the defendant to cease any dangerous or illegal activities that have occurred.

Should I Consult an Attorney About any Consumer Protection Violations?

Consumer rights are widely regulated because many people are at risk to be injured by deceptive or misleading business practices.

If you believe that your consumer rights have been violated, you maw want to consider contacting a local consumer attorney to determine if you should file a lawsuit or contact the appropriate regulating body of law to take action.