Introduction to Consumer Protection Law
Consumer law is best described as the law of everyday contracts and transactions involving individual consumers, i.e., goods and services purchased by people for themselves and their families, as opposed to business-to-business transactions. We have extensive experience representing both consumers and businesses in consumer law cases.
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When you buy virtually anything, from a t-shirt to a car or house, when you take out a loan, when you turn money over to a financial advisor to invest, when you apply for a mortgage or finance a car, when you open a bank account, when you apply for a credit card, when you fall behind on your mortgage or car payment, when debt collectors harass you, when you purchase a franchise, when you get an oil change, when inaccurate information on your credit report prevents you from getting a loan, when you hire a moving company, and in numerous other transactions you engage in, there are state and federal consumer protection laws in place that regulate the transaction and give you certain rights if you are treated unfairly.
My first exposure to consumer law came when I was a law student, working for an attorney in St. Louis. We represented a woman who was “renting-to-own” a house from some real estate investors who, it turned out, were defrauding her. She was a very nice woman, a hairdresser. They told her she would pay a $4,000 “down payment,” that she could purchase the house after a year and that the down payment and her monthly rent payments would count towards the purchase price. But the real estate investors who sold her the house didn’t pay the mortgage they had on the house, even though she paid her rent on time every month. The bank foreclosed, our client was kicked out and the real estate investors refused to refund her deposit. I loved our client, and I loved working on the case. After doing some digging, we uncovered a web of fraud - the whole scheme was nothing but a scam that the defendants had perpetrated on numerous poor families in the St. Louis area. They were preying on unsophisticated people who did not know any better. It turned out that they had entered into “rent-to-own” agreements with some people even after the bank had already begun foreclosing on the property, when they knew it would only be a matter of months before the tenant would be kicked out and forfeit their down payment.
Consumer Protection Laws
The following are some of the most commonly used consumer protection laws:
- Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act - protects consumers from “unfair,” “deceptive” and “unconscionable” sales practices with respect to consumer transactions.
- Ohio Lemon Law - gives automobile owners the right to a replacement vehicle or their money back if their new car (or a used car, in some circumstances) turns out to be a “lemon.”
- Federal Odometer Act - makes it unlawful to tamper with a motor vehicle's odometer and provides safeguards to protect purchasers of motor vehicles that turn out to have altered or reset odometers.
- Truth in Lending Act - requires certain disclosures about the terms and cost of consumer credit, gives consumers the right to cancel certain credit transactions that involve a lien on their principal dwelling, regulates certain credit card practices, and provides a means for fair and timely resolution of credit billing disputes.
- Fair Credit Reporting Act - regulates the collection, dissemination, and use of consumer information, including consumer credit information, and allows people to sue credit bureaus that fail to correct errors on their credit reports.
- Fair Debt Collection Practices Act - prohibits harassment by debt collectors, such as by continuously and repeatedly calling an alleged debtor or making improper threats.
Types of Consumer Protection Cases We Handle
We have represented people in a wide range of consumer protection cases, including people who have been defrauded by car dealerships, unscrupulous contractors, banks, country clubs, warranty companies, real estate investors, people selling phony franchise opportunities, mechanics, “fast” oil change businesses (particularly Quikstop Oilube), Payday loan companies, and other businesses. We have also represented companies that are being sued under consumer protection laws.
If you need help with a consumer protection matter, call The Durst Law Firm at (513) 621-4999.