As a consumer, you’re entitled to certain rights and protections. Read on for a rundown of the most common consumer protection concerns, including warranties, buying a car, credit cards and more.
Most people think about warranties as a specific promise that comes with a big purchase, like a bicycle or new laptop. In truth, according to US law, every retail product has an implied warranty. The implied warranty means that legally, by selling that item, the retailer is guaranteeing that the product will function as per its intended purpose. Apart from the implied warranty, some products also come with an express warranty, which is an additional promise. When buying a big-ticket item, it’s a good idea to choose one with a warranty. Read the warranty information thoroughly so you understand what protections you’re entitled too and for how long. Importantly, see if there’s any other action you need to take to validate the warranty—such as registering your item online or mailing in a warranty card.
Buying a Car
In many states, including Massachusetts, car buyers are protected by an automatic warranty known as a state-wide Lemon Law. The Massachusetts Lemon Law means that if your car is found to have a serious defect within the time of its warranty, and the dealer does not fix this problem before the warranty ends, you are eligible for a refund. The Lemon Law applies to both new and used vehicles purchased in Massachusetts with 125,000 miles or fewer, and with a substantial problem affecting the safety of the vehicle, its drivability, or its overall market value. Used cars with more miles may also be eligible for a refund if they fail inspection in the first seven days of ownership.
Credit cards offer a substantial amount of protection to consumers, which is why many people prefer to shop using a credit card rather than a debit card or cash. The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) states that consumers are not responsible for “billing errors” including unauthorized purchases over $50, charges listing the wrong date or amount, goods which were paid for but never arrived, and more. Consumers can dispute charges, without fear that their credit score will be affected, and the creditor is legally obligated to investigate. Many credit cards go even further, offering full theft protection and even travel insurance, which consumers can use to cover themselves in the case of canceled trips, lost luggage and so on.
It’s illegal for a business or a person to make untrue statements about the product or service they are trying to sell. Examples of a false statement could include misrepresenting a price, refusing to honor a price in a store advertisement, pretending that a used item is new, or refusing to sell an advertised item without a good reason. Rules around false advertising also apply to delivery: a company is required to ship the product to you in the period specified on the advertisement, and if you haven’t received it in that time period, you have the right to cancel the order and receive a refund. The Federal Trade Commission is responsible for truth in advertising laws; learn more about false advertising, and what to do if impacted, at https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/topics/truth-advertising.
Since 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has governed data privacy in the European Union. The United States doesn’t have a similarly comprehensive law regulating how consumer data is collected and used—but there are a number of rules around consumer privacy. For example, the Restore Online Shoppers' Confidence Act (ROSCA) stipulates that third-party payment processors aren’t allowed to sell your data; and in most states, companies aren’t allowed to share or sell your data without telling you first. Overall, it’s always a good idea to protect your digital privacy by changing passwords often and limiting browsing to secure websites.