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Federal Consumer Laws

We’ve provided a sampling of significant consumer regulations to give you a flavor of the protections available to you. You should be aware that it would be impossible to provide a complete list—they’re simply too numerous to list. And not all consumer laws are neatly combined into one, descriptively-named federal act. For instance, general “bait and switch” laws serve as the basis for enforcing prohibitions against deceptive auto advertising practices.

Your state will also have a consumer protection division that you can use to seek help. If you have difficulty finding the right agency, visit or contact your state’s attorney general office.

If you don’t find what you’re looking for—or even if you do—it’s a good idea to supplement your research by visiting the website of one of the agencies responsible for enforcing these laws (discussed further below).

Credit, Debt, and Identity Theft Issues
  • Billing errors. The Fair Credit Billing Act requires a credit card company to promptly and appropriately handle billing mistakes.

  • Credit card interest. The Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure Act precludes credit card companies from issuing rate increases without prior notice.

  • Credit reporting issues. The Fair Credit Reporting Act and Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act ensure that reporting agencies give accurate information to lenders. Consumers have the right to know the contents of their report and to receive a free yearly credit report. Identity theft victims also have the right to an investigation and the placement of a fraud alert on the account.

  • Lending disclosure requirements. The Truth in Lending Act requires a lender to provide details about your loan, such as the loan length and the costs you’ll pay.

  • Identity theft. The Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998 created the federal crime of identity theft. For more information, read (If You're a Victim of Identity Theft.)

Discrimination Issues
  • Credit discrimination. The Equal Credit Opportunity Act forbids a lender from refusing credit due to characteristics such as race, religion, national origin, sex, age, or the receipt of public aid.

  • Housing discrimination. The Fair Housing Act and Fair Housing Amendments prohibit landlords from discriminating against potential renters on the basis of race, religion, ethnic background, sex, familial status, or a mental or physical disability. (The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) enforces this law.)

Harmful Product Concerns
  • Unsafe products. The Consumer Product Safety Act protects consumers by regulating potentially dangerous products, such as toys painted with lead paint.

  • Unsafe drugs, cosmetics, or medical devices. The Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act prohibits legitimate and fraudulent drug and device manufacturers from selling mislabeled or adulterated products.

Vehicle Issues

  • Used car disclosures. Compliance with the Used Car Rule requires a dealer to display a “Buyer’s Guide” in the vehicle window.

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