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Consumer Law

Today in the United States, high levels of federal and state protection exist for consumers, those who purchase and use goods and services. On the federal level, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) deals with consumer protection; most states have their equivalents.

Consumer protection laws regulate advertising, sales practices, product branding, mail and internet business practices, banking, credit and lending, debt collection, investments and business opportunities, and matters relating to identity theft.

As just one example, if you purchase an item or a service (costing more than $25) that is sold by a door-to-door salesperson (you order a vacuum cleaner, for example) you have a “three-day cooling off period” during which you can cancel the sale in writing and receive a full refund. The salesperson is required to inform you about this right at the time of sale.

Consumer protection concepts reach into many areas of American life. The FTC and state agencies mandate the level of fire protection or sun protection in clothing. They lay down disclosure procedures when you sign a contract to arrange a wedding or funeral. They specify claims that made be made on the genuineness of Native American arts and crafts. They carefully regulate diet and weight-loss programs. They set rules regarding the small print in contracts, warranties, advertising and product performance.

The traditional common law concept of caveat emptor, legal Latin for “let the buyer beware,” is now a thing of the American past. The level of consumer protection is so high in the United States, at so many levels, that the provider of goods and services is the one who needs to be careful: caveat venditor.

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