Consumer protection laws are 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 MADs 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.
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.
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 laws 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.
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.
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 will then investigate, impose an injunction or take the matter to litigation.
The Office of Fair Trading 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 and the New Zealand Commerce Commission.
In the United States a variety of laws at both the federal or 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 , 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.
Consumer advocacy groups
- Competition law
- 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 2008
- General consumer protection laws
- 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 Act of 1934 - created the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to regulate all radio and interstate cable, phone, and satellite communications.
- 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 costs
- Health Insurance
- Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) - provides consumer protection for Health Information
- Digital 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 Act
- Trade Practices Act 1974
- Division 2 of Part 2 of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act 2001 in relation to financial services and products