Consumer protectionFrom Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaJump to: navigation, searchConsumer protection consists of laws and organizations designed to ensure the rights ofconsumers as well as fair trade competition and the free flow of truthful information in themarketplace. The laws are designed to prevent businesses that engage in fraud or specified unfairpractices from gaining an advantage over competitors and may provide additional protection forthe weak and those unable to take care of themselves. Consumer protection laws are a form ofgovernment regulation which aim to protect the rights of consumers. For example, a governmentmay require businesses to disclose detailed information about products—particularly in areaswhere safety or public health is an issue, such as food. Consumer protection is linked to the ideaof "consumer rights" (that consumers have various rights as consumers), and to the formation ofconsumer organizations, which help consumers make better choices in the marketplace and gethelp with consumer complaints.Other organizations that promote consumer protection include government organizations andself-regulating business organizations such as consumer protection agencies and organizations,the Federal Trade Commission, ombudsmen, Better Business Bureaus, etc.A consumer is defined as someone who acquires goods or services for direct use or ownershiprather than for resale or use in production and manufacturing.Consumer interests can also be protected by promoting competition in the markets which directlyand indirectly serve consumers, consistent with economic efficiency, but this topic is treated incompetition law.Consumer protection can also be asserted via non-government organizations and individuals asconsumer activism.Consumer lawConsumer protection law or consumer law is considered an area of law that regulates private lawrelationships between individual consumers and the businesses that sell those goods and services.Consumer protection covers a wide range of topics, including but not necessarily limited toproduct liability, privacy rights, unfair business practices, fraud, misrepresentation, and otherconsumer/business interactions.Consumer protection laws deal with a wide range of issues including credit repair, debt repair,product safety, service and sales contracts, bill collector regulation, pricing, utility turnoffs,consolidation, personal loans that may lead to bankruptcy.
GermanyA minister of the federal cabinet is responsible for consumer rights and protection(Verbraucherschutzminister). In the current cabinet of Angela Merkel, this is Ilse Aigner.When issuing public warnings about products and services, the issuing authority has to take intoaccount that this affects the suppliers constitutionally protected economic liberty (article 12Basic Law, see Bundesverwaltungsgericht (Federal Administrative Court)Case 3 C 34.84, 71BVerwGE 183).Republic of China (Taiwan)Consumer Protection Law in the Republic of China (Taiwan) is the national special law whichspecifically protects the interests and safety of end-user using the products or services providedby business operators. Consumer Protection Commission of Executive Yuan serves as anombudsman supervising, coordinating, reporting any unsafe products/services and periodicallyreviewing the legislation.United KingdomSee also: Consumer protection in the United Kingdom, Consumer Credit Act 1974, Unfair Contract TermsAct 1977, Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations 1999, and Unfair Contract Terms BillThe United Kingdom, as member state of the European Union, is bound by the consumerprotection directives of the EU. Domestic (UK) laws originated within the ambit of contract andtort but, with the influence of EU law, it is emerging as an independent area of law. In manycircumstances, where domestic law is in question, the matter judicially treated as tort, contract,restitution or even [[criminal law:).Consumer Protection issues are dealt with when complaints are made to the Director-General ofFair Trade. The Office of Fair Trading will then investigate, impose an injunction or take thematter to litigation. However, consumers cannot directly complain to the OFT. Complaints needto be made to Consumer Direct who will provide legal advice to complainants, or re-direct theindividual complaint to Trading Standards for investigation. Due to restrictions within theEnterprise Act 2002, individual complainants are unable to be told whether their case is beinginvestigated or not. In very rare cases, Consumer Direct may direct a very large number ofcomplaints to the OFT to be considered as a systemic complaint. The OFT can also be engagedby consumer groups e.g. The Consumers Association or the statutory consumer protection body -Consumer Focus - via a super complaint. The OFT rarely prosecute companies, however,preferring a light touch regulation approach. Consumer complaints against companies are notpublished, but investigation work, undertakings and enforcements are located at. Many of theconsumer protection laws e.g. Distance Selling Regulations 2000 or Unfair Terms in ConsumerContracts Regulations 1999 (12 years ago) are actually UK implementations of EU directives.The OFT is one of the bodies responsible for enforcing these rules. This leads to a problem inthat these examples of legislation are clearly designed to deal with individual complaints but theOFT will only deal with systemic complaints and will ignore individual complainants redirectingthem back to Consumer Direct.
The Office of Fair Trading also acts as the UKs official consumer and competition watchdog,with a remit to make markets work well for consumers, and at a local, municipal level byTrading Standards departments. General consumer advice can be obtained from Consumer Director via a local branch of the Citizens Advice Bureau.Other Commonwealth countriesIn Australia the corresponding agency is the Australian Competition and Consumer Commissionor the individual State Consumer Affairs agencies. The Australian Securities and InvestmentsCommission has responsibility for consumer protection regulation of financial services andproducts.In New Zealand, the corresponding agency is the Ministry of Consumer Affairs  and the NewZealand Commerce Commission.In India, the relevant agency is the National Consumer Disputes Commission  and theMinistry of Consumer Affairs . Also organisations like Akosha.com and Mouthshut.com playa vital role in helping consumers articulate their concerns and resolves their problems as well. InIndia the major law governing the consumer protection is Consumer Protection Act of 1986 --Under this law Separate Consumer tribunals have been set up throughout India in each and everydistrict in which a consumer [complaint can be filed by both the consumer of a goods as well asof the services] can file his complaint on a simple paper without paying any court-fees and hiscomplaint will be decided by the Presiding Officer of the District Level. Appeal could be filed tothe State Consumer Forum and after that to the national Consumer Forum. The procedures inthese tribunals are relatively less formal and more people friendly and they also take less time todecide upon a legal [consumer] dispute when compared to the years long time taken by thetraditional Indian judicial courts. IN recent years many effective judgement have been passed bysome state and National Consumer Forums.United States
Consumer protection laws often mandate the posting of notices, such as this one which appears in allautomotive repair shops in CaliforniaIn the United States a variety of laws at both the federal and state levels regulate consumeraffairs. Among them are the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Fair Credit ReportingAct, Truth in Lending Act, Fair Credit Billing Act, and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. Federalconsumer protection laws are mainly enforced by the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S.Department of Justice.At the state level, many states have adopted the Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Actincluding, but not limited to, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, and Nebraska. The deceptive tradepractices prohibited by the Uniform Act can be roughly subdivided into conduct involving eithera) unfair or fraudulent business practice and b) untrue or misleading advertising. The UniformAct contains a private remedy with attorneys fees for prevailing parties where the losing party"willfully engaged in the trade practice knowing it to be deceptive". Uniform Act §3(b). Also,the majority of states have a Department of Consumer Affairs devoted to regulating certainindustries and protecting consumers who use goods and services from those industries. Forexample, in California, the California Department of Consumer Affairs regulates about 2.3million professionals in over 230 different professions, through its forty regulatory entities. Inaddition, California encourages its consumers to act as private attorneys general through theliberal provisions of its Consumers Legal Remedies Act, Cal. Civil Code § 1750 et seq.California has the strongest consumer protection laws of any US state, partly because of rigorousadvocacy and lobbying by groups such as Utility Consumers Action Network , ConsumerFederation of California and Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.Other states have been the leaders in specific aspects of consumer protection. For exampleFlorida, Delaware and Minnesota have legislated requirements that contracts be written atreasonable readability levels as a large proportion of contracts cannot be understood by mostconsumers who sign them.Consumer advocacy groupsMain article: Consumer organizationLaws Competition lawUnited Kingdom Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 Sale of Goods Act 1979 Consumer Protection Act 1987 Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000 Electronic Commerce Regulations 2002
Enterprise Act 2002 General Product Safety Regulations 2005 Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008United States Consumer Product Safety Act - gives the Consumer Product Safety Commission the power to develop safety standards and pursue recalls for products Federal Trade Commission Act - created the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to prevent unfair competition, deceptive acts, regulate trade, etc.Privacy Laws United States National Do Not Call Registry - allows US consumers to limit telemarketing calls they receive.Food & Drug Pure Food and Drug Act - led to the creation of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate foods, drugs, and more.Communications Communications Act of 1934 - created the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to regulate all radio and interstate cable, phone, and satellite communications.Banking Fair Credit Reporting Act (FRCA) - regulates the collection, dissemination, and use of consumer credit information Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) - eliminate abusive consumer practices, ensure fairness, etc. Truth in Lending Act (TILA) - requires clear disclosure of key terms of the lending arrangement and all costs.Real Estate Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) - prohibits kickbacks and requires lenders to provide a good faith estimate of costsHealth Insurance Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) - provides consumer protection for Health InformationDigital Media
Digital Millennium Copyright Act - prohibits production or sale of devices or services intended to circumvent copyright measures. Digital Media Consumers Rights Act (proposed) - would repeal the Digital Millennium Copyright ActAustralia The Australian Consumer Law Division 2 of Part 2 of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act 2001  in relation to financial services and productsSee also