"Consumer protection" consists of laws and organizations designed to ensure the rights of consumers as well as fair trade competition and the free flow of truthful information in the marketplace. The laws are designed to prevent businesses that engage in fraud or specified unfair practices from gaining an advantage over competitors and may provide additional protection for the weak and those unable to take care of themselves. Consumer protection laws are a form of government regulation which aim to protect the rights of consumers. For example, a government may require businesses to disclose detailed information about products—particularly in areas where safety or public health is an issue, such as food. Consumer protection is linked to the idea of "consumer rights" (that consumers have various rights as consumers), and to the formation of consumer organizations, which help consumers make better choices in the marketplace and get help with consumer complaints.
Other organizations that promote consumer protection include government organizations and self-regulating business organizations such as consumer protection agencies and organizations, the ombudsmen, etc.
A consumer is defined as someone who acquires goods or services for direct use or ownership rather than for resale or use in production and manufacturing.
Consumer interests can also be protected by promoting competition in the markets which directly and indirectly serve consumers, consistent with economic efficiency, but this topic is treated in competition law.
Consumer protection can also be asserted via non-government organizations and individuals as consumer activism.
Consumer protection law or consumer law is considered an area of law that regulates private law relationships between individual consumers and the businesses that sell those goods and services. Consumer protection covers a wide range of topics, including but not necessarily limited to product liability, privacy rights, unfair business practices, fraud, misrepresentation, and other consumer/business interactions.
It's a way of preventing fraud and scams from occurring at any time.
Consumer protection laws deal with a wide range of issues including credit repair, debt repair, product safety, service and sales contracts, bill collector regulation, pricing, utility turnoffs, consolidation, personal loans that may lead to bankruptcy.
The United Kingdom, as member state of the European Union, is bound by the consumer protection directives of the EU. Domestic (UK) laws originated within the ambit of contract and tort but, with the influence of EU law, it is emerging as an independent area of law. In many circumstances, where domestic law is in question, the matter judicially treated as tort, contract, restitution or even criminal law.
Consumer Protection issues are dealt with when complaints are made to the Director-General of Fair Trade. The Office of Fair Trading will then investigate, impose an injunction or take the matter to litigation. However, consumers cannot directly complain to the OFT. Complaints need to be made to Consumer Direct who will provide legal advice to complainants, or re-direct the individual complaint to Trading Standards for investigation. Due to restrictions within the Enterprise Act 2002, individual complainants are unable to be told whether their case is being investigated or not. In very rare cases, Consumer Direct may direct a very large number of complaints to the OFT to be considered as a systemic complaint. The OFT can also be engaged by consumer groups e.g. The Consumers Association or the statutory consumer protection body - Consumer Focus - via a super complaint. The OFT rarely prosecute companies, however, preferring a light touch regulation approach. Consumer complaints against companies are not published, but investigation work, undertakings and enforcements are located at. Many of the consumer protection laws e.g. Distance Selling Regulations 2000 or Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 are actually UK implementations of EU directives. The OFT is one of the bodies responsible for enforcing these rules. This leads to a problem in that these examples of legislation are clearly designed to deal with individual complaints but the OFT will only deal with systemic complaints and will ignore individual complainants redirecting them back to Consumer Direct.
The Office of Fair Trading also acts as the UK's official consumer and competition watchdog, with a remit to make markets work well for consumers, and at a local, muni***l level by Trading Standards departments. General consumer advice can be obtained from Consumer Direct or via a local branch of the Citizen's Advice Bureau.