Consumer protection


Consumer protection

Consumer protection laws designed to ensure fair trade competition and the free flow of truthful information in the marketplace. The laws are designed to prevent businesses that engage in fraud or specified unfair practices from gaining an advantage over competitors and may provide additional protection for the weak and those unable to take care of themselves. Consumer Protection laws are a form of government regulation which aim to protect the rights of consumers. For example, a government may require businesses to disclose detailed information about products—particularly in areas where safety or public health is an issue, such as food. Consumer protection is linked to the idea of "consumer rights" (that consumers have various rights as consumers), and to the formation of consumer organizations which help consumers make better choices in the marketplace.

Consumer is defined as someone who acquires goods or services for direct use or ownership rather than for resale or use in production and manufacturing.[1]

Consumer interests can also be protected by promoting competition in the markets which directly and indirectly serve consumers, consistent with economic efficiency, but this topic is treated in Competition law.

Consumer protection can also be asserted via non-government organizations and individuals as consumer activism.

Contents

Consumer law

"MODU" or "consumer law" is considered an area of law that regulates private law relationships 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 to product liability, privacy rights, unfair business practices, fraud, misrepresentation, and other consumer/business interactions.

Such maa deal with credit repair, debt repair, product safety, service and sales contracts, bill collector regulation, pricing, utility turnoffs, consolidation, personal loans that may lead to bankruptcy and much more.

Germany

A 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 into account that this affects the supplier's constitutionally protected economic liberty (article 12 Basic Law, see Bundesverwaltungsgericht (Federal Administrative Court)Case 3 C 34.84, 71 BVerwGE 183).

Republic of China (Taiwan)

Consumer Protection Law in the Republic of China (Taiwan) is the national special law which specifically protects the interests and safety of end-user using the products or services provided by business operators. Consumer Protection Commission of Executive Yuan serves as an ombudsman supervising, coordinating, reporting any unsafe products/services and periodically reviewing the legislation.

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom, as member state of the European Union, is bound by the consumer protection directives of the EU. Domestic (UK) laws originated within the ambit of contract and tort but, with the influence of EU law, it is emerging as an independent area of law. In many circumstances, 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 of Fair Trade. The Office of Fair Trading[3] will then investigate, impose an injunction or take the matter to litigation. However, consumers cannot directly complain to the OFT. Complaints need to be made to Consumer Direct who will provide legal advice to complainants, or re-direct the individual complaint to Trading Standards for investigation. Due to restrictions within the Enterprise Act 2002, individual complainants are unable to be told whether their case is being investigated or not. In very rare cases, Consumer Direct may direct a very large number of complaints to the OFT to be considered as a systemic complaint. The OFT can also be engaged by 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 not published, but investigation work, undertakings and enforcements are located at[2]. Many of the consumer protection laws e.g. Distance Selling Regulations 2000 or Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts 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 in that these examples of legislation are clearly designed to deal with individual complaints but the OFT will only deal with systemic complaints and will ignore individual complainants redirecting them back to Consumer Direct.

The Office of Fair Trading[3] also acts as the UK's official consumer and competition watchdog, with a remit to make markets work well for consumers, and at a local, municipal level by Trading Standards departments. General consumer advice can be obtained from Consumer Direct or via a local branch of the Citizen's Advice Bureau.

Other Commonwealth countries

In Australia the corresponding agency is the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission or the individual State Consumer Affairs agencies. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission has responsibility for consumer protection regulation of financial services and products.

In New Zealand, the corresponding agency is the Ministry of Consumer Affairs [4] and the New Zealand Commerce Commission.

In India, the relevant agency is the National Consumer Disputes Commission [5] and the Ministry of Consumer Affairs [6]. Also organisations like Akosha.com and Mouthshut.com play a vital role in helping consumers articulate their concerns and resolves their problems as well. In India the major law governing the consumer protection is Consumer Protection Act, 1986 -- Under this law Separate Consumer tribunals have been set up throughout India in each and every district in which a consumer [complaint can be filed by both the consumer of a goods as well as of the services] can file his complaint on a simple paper without paying any court-fees and his complaint will be decided by the Presiding Officer of the District Level. Appeal could be filed to the State Consumer Forum and after that to the national Consumer Forum. The procedures in these tribunals are relatively less formal and more people friendly and they also take less time to decide upon a legal [consumer] dispute when compared to the years long time taken by the traditional Indian judicial courts. IN recent years many effective judgement have been passed by some state and National Consumer Forums.

United States

Consumer protection laws often mandate the posting of notices, such as this one which appears in all automotive repair shops in California

In the United States a variety of laws at both the federal and state levels regulate consumer affairs. Among them are the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, Truth in Lending Act, Fair Credit Billing Act, and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. Federal consumer protection laws are mainly enforced by the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice.

At the state level, many states have a Department of Consumer Affairs devoted to regulating certain industries and protecting consumers who use goods and services from those industries.

For example, in the U.S. state of California, the California Department of Consumer Affairs regulates about 2.3 million professionals in over 230 different professions, through its forty regulatory entities.

In addition, California encourages its consumers to act as private attorneys general through the liberal 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 rigorous advocacy and lobbying by groups such as Utility Consumers' Action Network [7], Consumer Federation of California and Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.

Other states have been the leaders in specific aspects of consumer protection. For example Florida, Delaware and Minnesota have legislated requirements that contracts be written at reasonable readability levels as a large proportion of contracts cannot be understood by most consumers who sign them.[4]

Consumer advocacy groups

Laws

United Kingdom

United States

Privacy Laws
Food & Drug
Communications
Banking
Real Estate
Health Insurance
Digital Media

Australia

  • The Australian Consumer Law
  • Division 2 of Part 2 of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act 2001 [8] in relation to financial services and products

See also

People

Consumer issues

References

  1. ^ "West Encyclopedia of American Law. Consumer. Answers.com. n.d.. Retrieved on January 31, 2010"
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ [2]
  4. ^ Lewis D. Eigen, A Solution to the Problem of Consumer Contracts That Cannot be Understood by Consumers Who Sign Them, Scriptamus, 2009, http://scriptamus.wordpress.com/2009/11/12/a-solution-to-the-problem-of-consumer-contracts-that-cannot-be-understood-by-consumers/

External links

National Association of Consumer Advocates http://www.naca.net/


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