As a consumer in the United States, you may sometimes feel like you’re at the mercy of large corporations with deep pockets and vast legal expertise at their disposal. But, thanks to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and a variety of legislation, many protections are in place to protect you and your rights as a consumer.
The following is a general overview of some of the most important protective laws in the country.
Also known as the Civil Rights Act, this protection was voted into law in 1968, and prevents discrimination in housing in the following forms:
The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is responsible for investigating violations of the Fair Housing Act filed by consumers. Practices like redlining and reverse redlining, which some claim occurred during the recent housing bubble, may be considered violations of this act.
Part of the Consumer Credit Protection Act, this law aims to eliminate abusive debt collection, champion fair debt collection and give consumers a way to verify and dispute debt information.
The law outlines the following as illegal “abusive and deceptive” collection practices:
Your lawyer can help you determine whether your creditors have engaged in any of these behaviors and whether or not legal action is appropriate.
This law allows you to have free access to your credit report (a history of your credit action), challenge any inaccuracies you see and generally stay informed about where you stand in the eyes of creditors and lenders.
The three major Credit Reporting Agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) receive information from thousands of creditors (credit card companies, banks, home lenders, etc.) about your payment history, current balances, late charges and more. The CRAs are required by law to report all information accurately and correct any mistakes you find, which you can do by:
Credit reports are a wonderful tool available to you – but they only work as well as you make them. In other words, nobody will notice mistakes but you, which means you should check your report every year.
Errors on your report may lead to a lowered credit rating, which may hurt your ability to get loans, sign leases, open credit card accounts and more.
This law is meant to protect you, the consumer, in credit transactions. It outlines requirements for lending disclosure. That is, it requires that those who are extending credit fully reveal the terms of the loan (interest rates, payment period, late fees, etc.).
Unfortunately, many credit card agreements come with such extensive disclosure that many consumers do not read all the terms and conditions and end up deeply in debt.
This page is meant to serve as an overview of some of the basic rights you have as a consumer. If you believe your rights have been violated, you may want to discuss your situation with a bankruptcy lawyer to determine whether or not legal action is appropriate.