Consumer Law is a relatively recent branch of law, as far as the history of the United States is concerned.
Tracing back to the early 1900s and the founding of the Food & Drug Administration, Consumer Law exists to protect the public and private consumers from false claims and advertising, as well as products that may be harmful to consumers.
This goes well beyond comestibles and pharmaceuticals – it branches out into everything from automobiles, to light bulbs, to even what companies can do with the information they obtain from their consumers.
At the beginning of the Consumer Law movement, products were being sold for consumption throughout the United States that contained high levels of mercury, lead, and even harmful drugs such as cocaine and opium.
This started the consumer protection movement and the FDA was formed to regulate such products so that these “helpful pharmaceuticals” did not contain harmful ingredients.
We see an extension of this form of consumer protection today, when we see full lists of potential side effects listed when legitimate pharmaceuticals are advertised.
From the 1960s to the 1970s, consumer regulations and national consumer protection lobbyists rallied to make automobiles safer for the public. This resulted in national consumer safety regulations, lemon laws, and a number of legal precedents so that car manufacturers made vehicles that were safer to drive – for individuals and families. We see this today in the form of seat belt laws, mandatory air bags, and third party inspection agencies that ensure each vehicle falls within the safety guidelines as laid out by Consumer Law.
In most recent years, with on-line businesses coming to the forefront and technology growing by leaps and bounds, Consumer Law has had to review and redefine this new frontier so that the average consumer is not taken advantage of by shady businesses and fly-by-night scam artists who operate on-line. In addition to this, Consumer Reviews and Consumer Protection Boards have required all on-line businesses to offer opt-in and opt-out forms to prevent spam e-mail, and to keep customer information from being distributed without the consumer’s permission.
This is not to say that Consumer Law takes care of everything regarding digital information. It is the responsibility of the consumer to give permission and to read license agreements in order to fully understand how their information will be used, and what their rights are regarding on-line transactions and operations.
In the past few years, Consumer Law has branched into the area of finances. When major banks and loans took a huge downturn, many consumers found themselves with unwarranted banking fees and foreclosures that were new to Americans, since the inception of Consumer Law. As such, measures had to be reviewed and revised in order to protect consumers from losing their homes, and even having their bank accounts closed.
Consumer Law attorneys are many in number, and are there to help consumers who feel they have been slighted or taken advantage of by companies and scam artists. Consumer Law attorneys usually do not charge fees until the courts rule in favor of the consumer. With new businesses appearing every day, and new products and services hitting the open market, it is more important than ever for consumers to know their rights, and how they are protected under state and federal Consumer Law.
Luckily, there are a number of Consumer Protection organizations and Consumer Law attorneys who are willing to offer free consultations on-line in order to give consumers a better idea of where they stand with Consumer Law in cases where they feel their money, trust, and personal information have been abused by various businesses. If you feel you have a case against an on-line organization or business for breech of Consumer Law, or if you simply want to know your rights as a consumer or business, you should consult with a Consumer Law attorney today.