An important component of Legal Service Command's legal assistance program is our consumer protection program. Personal financial difficulties can interfere with a member's ability to perform his or her official duties. We hope to prevent some instances of personal financial difficulties by sharing this consumer protection information and resource guide. In some instances, prevention will fail and our legal assistance attorneys will do their best to assist those clients experiencing financial difficulties. As in medicine, prevention of financial difficulties is worth a pound of cure. Please explore this web site and the links contained throughout. You will find information that can make you a better and more informed consumer.
Both your state and the federal government provide a myriad of protections for you, the consumer. Nevertheless, there are plenty of scam artists out there trying to separate you from your earnings. To be a savvy consumer, you should be aware of common dangers signals, which should alert you to a potential scam, and you should be aware of your rights under the law. This page is designed to briefly describe some protections the law provides the consumer as well as provide links to the most current information concerning how to spot a scam and how to exercise your legal rights. This page relies heavily on the information available through an outstanding resource, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) consumer web site.
When someone comes to the door of your home to sell you something (perhaps a vacuum cleaner, set of encyclopedias, or a magazine subscription), do you feel pressured into buying something? Do you feel pressured into at least being nice and hospitable to the stranger on your doorstep? Of course you do -- that's why salesmen still do door-to-door sales. In this age of junk email and telephone solicitations, a salesman knows his best chance at a sale is a face-to-face meeting. It's a lot easier to hang the telephone up on a voice or delete an annoying email than shut the door on a real person.
Have you ever bought something from a door-to-door salesman and later rethought the purchase and wondered what you needed to do to rescind the sale? There might be a way, provided certain conditions are met:
If these conditions are met, there is a good chance you have a 3 business day cooling-off period in which to rescind the transaction. As you can tell, time is of the essence. If you fail to rescind with the 3 business days, you may be stuck. Consult with your legal assistance attorney as soon as possible concerning your rescission rights and how to exercise them. For more information on this topic, see the Federal Trade Commission web site on the internet.
When the telephone rings at your home between the hours of 1800 and 2100, it is often someone trying to sell you something. Telemarketers call at those hours because they know there is a good chance you will be home and the law prevents them from calling you after 2100 unless you consent). These calls are somewhat less intrusive than a salesman showing up at your door; but that is somewhat offset by the fact that each seller can call many more consumers than they could possibly visit door-to-door. While there is the chance the seller might be selling something you want, rampant abuses by telemarketers caused the federal government to pass a law, the Telemarketing & Consumer Fraud and Abuse Protection Act (the Act), to offer consumers protection from telemarketing deception and abuse.
Telemarketing tips from the National Fraud Information Center can be found at: Telemarketing Fraud Tips (You're leaving a federal government web site.)
Each state has UDAP statutes that cover a wide variety of consumer topics. For a look at the state laws that apply where you live, check out this web site: Consumer World (You're leaving a federal government web site.)
The scope of transactions covered varies state to state. All UDAP statutes provide for state enforcement of your rights. Some provide a private cause of action as well. Consult with your legal assistance attorney to determine if a transaction into which you entered is covered under the applicable UDAP statute.
TILA promotes the informed use of credit by consumers and requires lenders to provide meaningful disclosure of credit terms. TILA also protects consumers against inaccurate and unfair credit billing and credit card practices. TILA requires certain disclosures on both open-ended and close-ended credit transactions. TILA offers a 3 business day cooling off period and rescission rights for home equity loans and home equity lines of credit. To learn more about the protections TILA offers you as the consumer, consult with your legal assistance attorney.
An example of how TILA was used to protect consumers is a lawsuit that forced H&R Block to disclose that its "Rapid Refund" program was actually a loan program charging consumers up to 150% annual interest.
For anyone who has ever experienced the debt collection process, it can be excruciating and hostile (whether or not you actually owe the money sought). As a consumer, you have certain rights when dealing with a debt collector or collection agency. First of all, a debt collector or collection agency is someone hired to collect a debt (as opposed to the creditor, the person claiming that you owe them money). Your rights include: