Your Guide to Consumer Rights

Peter Sundin
8 Min Read

Consumer rights are essential, especially when shopping online. How do you know whether or not you are being treated fairly?

Consumers have certain rights under federal law, such as the right to cancel a contract within seven days of purchase, return merchandise without penalty, and receive refunds if they aren’t satisfied with their purchases. However, these rights vary from state to state, and some states don’t even require businesses to honor these laws.

You should always read the terms and conditions before signing up for anything and make sure you understand them completely. If you encounter problems, contact customer service immediately for a free consultation. This way, you’ll get a refund or exchange if necessary.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is also responsible for protecting consumer rights, including ensuring that companies follow through on promises, resolving disputes, and enforcing rules against deceptive practices.

The FTC can investigate alleged violations of consumer protection laws, issue warning letters, and recommend how businesses change their policies or products to be more consumer-friendly.

If your business isn’t following consumer protection laws, there might be consequences for, for example, the FTC could fine or shut down your company’s operations. Even so, it helps to keep your eyes open for unfair and deceptive marketing tactics.

What Rights Does Consumers Have?

There are several consumer rights that one should learn as discussed below;

First Sale Doctrine

Generally speaking, the first sale doctrine means that you own it once you buy something new. You can sell it back to the store where you purchased it, use it yourself, lend it to someone else, give it away, or throw it out.

However, this doesn’t mean that you’re allowed to resell used items at any price. There are many reasons why selling used goods might be illegal, such as trademark infringement, copyright infringement, or theft of trade secrets. In addition, the law allows retailers to set reasonable resale prices for refurbished products.

Right to Cancel

Under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, you have the right to cancel a product after receiving it for 30 days unless the manufacturer has already started shipping it to you.


It depends on what kind of contract you signed. Some contracts allow you to request a refund, while others only offer exchanges or money-back guarantees. Before purchasing anything, it is essential to read all relevant information about your contracts, such as how long it will take for exchanges, returns, or refunds to occur.

What Kind of Contract Should I Sign?

When buying an item, it is wise to sign a sales contract. However, most consumer rights apply regardless of whether you sign a contract or not. For instance, the “first sale” rule applies to both pre-signed and post-signed transactions, and the right to cancel doesn’t depend on whether or not you’ve agreed to a contract.

In the case of a pre-signed contract, it simply means that you agree to purchase the item from the retailer without specifying the exact amount or terms of payment. On the other hand, when you buy something under a pre-signed agreement with specific terms, you may have violated the first sale doctrine if you don’t honor the contract terms.

Right to Privacy

Because businesses generate billions of dollars in annual revenue by selling products and services to consumers, they need to protect their interests to continue doing so. The federal government regulates many aspects of advertising, including what goes into print ads, broadcast commercials, billboards, direct mail pieces, radio and television spots, and online advertisements.

You probably know that some businesses aren’t too concerned about misleading advertising. They think that because consumers are more intelligent than ever before, they’ll pick up on the tricks of the trade. But sometimes, these techniques work better than expected, and consumers are misled.

This is one reason businesses should abide by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). This legislation requires companies who report credit information to ensure that the data provided is accurate and that consumers can correct errors. In addition to helping customers understand their credit reports, FCRA also prevents businesses from releasing sensitive personal information without consent.

There are four main types of consumer reporting agencies:

  • The major credit bureaus like Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. These agencies collect financial information from banks, employers, landlords, and creditors.
  • Specialized credit reporting agencies sell credit reports solely to businesses and individuals who want to check their credit history.
  • Public record repositories store files containing public records like arrest records. These records cannot be sold but are widely available through search engines.
  • Other information sources include companies that compile lists of people’s telephone numbers, addresses, and social security numbers.

The FTC reviews complaints against each of these organizations every year. If a business violates any of the requirements outlined in this law, it could be fined up to $5,000 per violation. Additionally, if the evidence is that the agency lied about its practices, it could be subject to a fine between $16,000 and $65,000 for each violation.

While FCRA does stipulate exceptions in some instances, it remains a good idea for consumers to keep track of their credit score at least once a year. This will help them better understand how the system works and access tools to improve their scores.

Fair Credit Reporting Act

Both businesses and consumers had little control over their credit ratings in the past. As a result, many were unaware of an error or mistake in their report. However, consumers have more power to correct mistakes in their accounts. Businesses must disclose whether a dispute has been filed against them within two days of receiving notice, and consumers have thirty days to submit information to prove their claim.

Unfortunately, even though most states follow the FCRA, many websites still do not take the time to ensure compliance with the act. You should contact your state attorney general’s office if you believe your rights have been violated.

If you feel your rights under the FCRA have been violated, you may sue the company providing your credit file. However, unless you can prove damages, the court will probably rule in favor of the company. Therefore, it is always best to determine what steps you need to take before filing suit to avoid wasting money and resources.

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Peter Sundin was born and raised in New Jersey. He has contributed to Buzz Feed, Details and TODAY and served as a commentator for NPR, MSNBC and HuffPost Live. As a journalist for Morning News Ledger, Peter mostly covers national news. Aside from earning a living as a freelance journalist, Peter also works as a dog walker.