Hiring a consumer law attorney will ensure your interests are protected as you file a variety of consumer complaints against a company.
Consumer law involves regulations and statutes that create a safe marketplace for consumers.
Both state and federal laws are involved in regulating consumer law. These laws include a wide range of topics, including prohibiting false advertising, imposing product safety measures, and more.
So, when should you hire a consumer law attorney?
We’re taking a closer look today so you have a better understanding of consumer law and the information you need before contacting an attorney.
Let’s get started …
What Is Consumer Law
Consumer law is the regulation in place to provide consumer protection.
When you buy goods or services, you are a consumer and are protected by many consumer laws that try to create an equitable balance for buyers and prevent sellers from using dishonest tactics.
At both state and federal levels, statutes and regulations are in place to deal with false advertising, unsafe products, unfair debt collection practices and identity theft, among other issues.
You have a right to seek legal assistance if you bought a car with hidden defects, lost money on some financial scam, had your identity stolen, or were injured by some unsafe product you bought.
These are just some of the consumer problems you may have, but there are many more.
Consumer laws keep changing, and merchants and sellers sometimes fall behind in staying current with the latest changes. Maybe their company systems and processes have not been changed to reflect current laws. Maybe there is too much red tape within a company system to respond to consumer complaints in a timely way.
If you filed a complaint with a manufacturer or retailer and did not receive full satisfaction, you may want o file a complaint with a state regulatory or federal agency, or you may want to file a lawsuit against the business owner.
Regardless of which direction you want to go, and even if you are not sure about what you should do, hiring a good consumer law attorney is the best way to proceed. The consumer lawyer knows the law and the possible remedies for you.
The consumer law attorney can advise you on whether you have a good case for a civil suit, or in cases like fraud or embezzlement, you may have a case for criminal misconduct and possible legal sanctions.
There are many kinds of consumer laws in place, and here are a few where you may want to bring in an attorney.
The “Lemon law” enables consumers to get a refund or replacement of a car that was purchased with a major mechanical defect, usually one covered by warranty.
If you brought your car back to the dealer a “reasonable” number of times, and the defect was still not corrected, you can probably use the lemon law to get a replacement vehicle. An attorney can help establish the fact that your purchased vehicle was indeed a lemon under the law.
An attorney is especially helpful if the dealer refuses to admit he is trying to sell a defective vehicle. To aid your cause, it’s a good idea to keep detailed records of any repair appointments you have with your vehicle. It’s important if you have repeated visits for the same problem.
Lemon laws are highly state-specific, and California has many statutes as well as rules and regulations covering the purchase of vehicles both in- and out-of-state.
The California laws cover such issues as vehicle safety and recall, warranties, financing, smog certification, and more.
The debtor-creditor law refers to the relationship between creditors and debtors, but not involving bankruptcy. If you have a problem with paying a debt, an attorney will try to keep you out of bankruptcy court. It is possible that your credit can be extended. If not, you are protected in the way your debt can be collected. An attorney can counsel you and the debt collector on the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, designed to protect both consumer and businesses.
Minor billing disputes can be handled in small claims court. Larger disputes like credit card debt or repossession of your vehicle should be handled by an attorney. Many attorneys will collect payment only if you win your case.
An attorney can help you understand your consumer rights and can help you find a good credit counseling service. If you were refused credit because of some protected characteristic like race or gender, an attorney can represent you in challenging the financial institution on legal grounds.
When a consumer buys a product, there is an assumption that the product works as advertised and is inherently safe to use as intended. This an implied warranty.
If a manufacturer could have foreseen that a product defect might cause an injury, that manufacturer could be guilty of negligence.
Even if a defect were not anticipated, if someone is injured using a product, the doctrine of strict liability may still apply.
The consumer can bring a product liability lawsuit against whoever was responsible for the injury, whether that is the designer, manufacturer or seller.
Commercial law vs. business law
Commercial law and business law are different but related areas that are often covered by the same attorney or law firm. A business that sells goods or services to consumers would probably have attorneys that cover both specialties.
While business law deals with issues like forming a company, mergers and acquisitions, property issues, shareholder interests, etc., commercial law deals with the sale, financing and distribution of goods and services.
Commercial law is regulated primarily by the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), a set of laws regarding the sales or lease of goods, negotiable instruments, and secured transactions.
All states have adopted some form of the UCC, having modified its provisions to fit their own particular needs. So, it is important, if you find it necessary to understand your local UCC provisions, to contact an attorney familiar with the California UCC.
How to Proceed With Your Complaint
There are different ways to proceed with a consumer complaint. You can start with the manufacturer or retailer who caused the problem. If you aren’t happy with the resolution, you can file a formal complaint with the appropriate government agency or consumer organization. You can also go to small claims court.
Hiring a lawyer with consumer law experience is a good idea for whatever direction you want to take, but especially if you want to file a lawsuit.
One agency you can file with is the California Attorney General’s office. This office will investigate consumer complaints and take disciplinary or legal action against individuals and/or companies that violate consumer laws.
If your trouble is about a financial product or service with some company, you can register a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
The CFPB facilitates dispute resolution by making public all complaints and resolutions. It forwards complaints to the company involved and allows it to respond, which usually includes the steps it is taking to resolve the issue raised.
The CFPB notifies the person with the complaint and allows the person to respond as to whether the steps listed are satisfactory or not. The process takes about two weeks, and at the end, the complaint and results are published online. If there has been no resolution, an attorney can take the next steps which might involve a lawsuit.
There are other avenues of petition as well, including the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Better Business Bureau (BBB). The FTC can spot trends of fraud or abuse and provide information beneficial to law enforcement officials.
The BBB is a nonprofit organization that helps settle disputes in much the same way as the CFPB, tracking complaints and responses. The BBB can lower the business rating of any company that does not respond or does not sort out the issues raised in a complaint.
The best advice is to hire a consumer law attorney who is aware of all the options on the table to give you the best course of action for your own particular case.