Money Matters: 5 little-known (and often broken) consumer protection laws

July 19, 2019 11:00

Sponsored by NEFE

Sometimes consumers are protected without even knowing it, and looking into these little-known, often flouted consumer protection laws could help your audience protect themselves and their money.

Robo-sales calls
Robo-calls are universally annoying. What many may not know is that telemarketing robocalls – automatically placed calls with pre-recorded messages trying to sell you something - are prohibited by law unless you’ve consented in writing. Legislation is also currently pending to widen the ban on robocalls. The average person may just ignore those annoying – and illegal – robo-sales calls. But those who do know their rights are poised to cash in. Call consumer lawyers in your area: Chances are someone’s won a settlement against a robocaller.

Debt collection limitations
When looking for a metaphor of a “bad guy,” debt collectors often come to mind. But what many people may not know is that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau strictly regulates what debt collectors can do to get the money you owe – and that doesn’t include harassing you, verbally abusing you, calling at unusual hours or talking to your family or coworkers about your debt.  While the CFPB is currently looking into changing some of these regulations, it's all too common for debt collectors to violate them. And those who owe may not know or feel safe speaking up. 

Implied warranty
Written warranties are enforceable by federal law. But many everyday products don’t come with written warranties.  However, these purchases are often still protected by implied warranties under state laws. So if a product – new or used – doesn’t perform the basic function it’s purchased for, consumers can still be protected. Some states go even further by saying that retailers may not sell something “as is” in an attempt to get around the implied warranty concept. What are the implied warranty laws in your state?

The Funeral Rule
Planning a funeral is a vulnerable time in anyone’s life, and the vulnerable are susceptible to shady business practices. That’s why the Federal Trade Commission has a Funeral Rule, which requires funeral providers “to give consumers accurate, itemized price information and various other disclosures about funeral goods and services.” The rule prevents funeral providers from requiring consumers to purchase things they may not really want as part of a package. It also strictly limits the types of services funeral providers can charge fees for. The FTC monitors funeral homes with periodic undercover inspections – and frequently turns up violations. What is the level of non-compliance in your area?

The Consumer Review Fairness Act
What’s the first thing you do before you decide to buy something? Look at the reviews! Understandably, businesses know the power of reviews and want to prevent bad reviews. But the 2016 Consumer Review Fairness Act protects customers’ right to review a business – including negatively. If a business’ terms of use try to prevent users from leaving reviews or threaten them for doing so, they’re not in compliance. So keep an eye out for disappearing bad reviews or suspiciously highly rated establishments – they may be silencing reviewers.

Have you reported on any of these or other surprising consumer protections?
Enter your consumer finance stories for the RTDNA/NEFE Personal Finance Reporting Awards

Three winners  – representing digital, radio and TV news – will each receive:
  • A $1,000 prize
  • Complimentary registration to the Excellence in Journalism 2019 conference in San Antonio
  • Travel and hotel expenses
  • The opportunity to present your winning work at a conference session
Entries are due July 22.
NEFE Personal Finance Reporting Awards


2019 Research