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Relevant Consumer Protection Laws for the United States

Federal Lottery Law

It is illegal to operate a lottery through the mail or over the telephone. A lottery exists when you must pay for a chance to win a prize ( from money to jewelry or a new car). The chance means an opportunity to win, such as a drawing or a matching lucky number.


Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA)

You’re protected by the FCBA when you use your credit card to pay for purchases.

Billing Errors

If you find an error on your credit or charge card statement, you may dispute the charge and withhold payment on the disputed amount while the charge is in dispute. The error might be a charge for the wrong amount, for something you did not accept, or for an item that was not delivered as agreed. Of course, you still must pay any part of the bill that is not in dispute, including finance charges on the undisputed amount.

If you decide to dispute a charge:

blue bullet point Write to the creditor at the address indicated on the monthly statement for "billing inquiries." Include your name, address, credit card number, and a description of the billing error.
blue bullet point Send your letter in a timely fashion. It must reach the creditor within 60 days after the first bill containing the error was mailed to you.

The creditor must acknowledge your complaint in writing within 30 days after receiving it, unless the problem has been resolved. The creditor must resolve the dispute within two billing cycles (but not more than 90 days) after receiving your letter.

Unsatisfactory goods or services

You also may dispute charges for unsatisfactory goods or services. To take advantage of this protection regarding the quality of goods or services, you must:

blue bullet point have made the purchase in your home state or within 100 miles of your current billing address. The charge must be for more than $50;
blue bullet point make a good faith effort first to resolve the dispute with the seller. However, you are not required to use any special procedure to do so.

Note that the dollar and distance limitations don’t apply if the seller also is the card issuer or if a special business relationship exists between the seller and the card issuer.

To avoid unwanted phone calls from many national marketers, send your name, address, and telephone number to:

DMA Telephone Preference Service
P.O. Box 9014
Farmingdale, NY 11735-9014


The Fair Credit Reporting Act

Your credit payment history is recorded in a file or report. These files are maintained by credit reporting agencies (CRAs). One type of CRA is commonly know as a credit bureau. You have a credit record on file at a credit bureau if you have ever applied for a credit or charge card account, a personal loan, insurance, or a job. Your credit record contains information about your income, debts and credit payment history. It also indicated whether you’ve been sued, arrested or have filed for bankruptcy.

The FCRA is designed to help ensure that CRAs furnish correct and complete information to businesses when evaluating your application.

In addition, you have specific rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act:

blue bullet point You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report if you've been denied credit, insurance or employment and ask for the report within 60 days of notice, or if you can prove that (1) you're unemployed and plan to look for a job within 60 days, (2) you're on welfare, or (3) your report is inaccurate because of fraud.
blue bullet point If your application for credit, insurance or employment is denied because of information supplied by a credit bureau, the company you applied to must provide you with that credit bureau's name, address and telephone number.
blue bullet point You can dispute mistakes or outdated items for free. Ask the credit bureau for a dispute form or submit your dispute in writing, along with any supporting documentation. Do not send original documents.


The Credit Repair Organizations Act

By law, credit repair organizations must give you a copy of the "Consumer Credit File Rights Under State and Federal Law" before you sign a contract. They also must give you a written contract that spells out your rights and obligations. Read these documents before signing the contract. The law contains specific protections for you. For example, a credit repair company cannot:

blue bullet point make false claims about their services;
blue bullet point charge you until they have completed the promised services; or
blue bullet point perform any services until they have your signature on a written contract and have completed a three-day waiting period. During this time, you can cancel the contract without paying any fees.

Your contract must specify:

blue bullet point the payment terms for services, including their total cost;
blue bullet point a detailed description of the services to be performed;
blue bullet point how long it will take to achieve the results;
blue bullet point any guarantees they offer; and
blue bullet point the company's name and business address.

The Electronic Fund Transfer Act

It is important to check electronic fund transfer account statements regularly. These documents may contain mistakes that could damage your credit status or reflect improper charges or transfers. If you find an error or discrepancy, notify the company and contest the error immediately. These laws establish procedures for resolving mistakes on credit billing and electronic fund transfer account statements. They also protect your credit rating while a transaction is in dispute and limit your liability for unauthorized electronic fund transfers.


The Truth in Lending Act

It is important to shop around to get the best deal on credit. Federal law requires disclosure of the "finance charge" and the "annual percentage rate" (APR) and certain other costs and terms of credit so that consumers can compare the price of credit from different lenders.


The Home Equity Loan Consumer Protection Act

Your home may be your most valuable asset. It is important to carefully read and understand all aspects of your credit agreement. This law requires lenders to disclose terms, rates and conditions for home equity lines of credit with the applications and before the first transaction under the home equity plan. If the disclosed terms change, the consumer can refuse to open the plan and is entitled to a refund of fees paid in connection with the application. The law also limits the circumstances under which creditors may terminate or change the terms of a home equity plan after it is opened.


The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

You are responsible for your debts. If you fall behind in paying your creditors or an error is made on your account, you may be contacted by a "debt collector." A debt collector is any person, other than the creditor, who regularly collects debts owed to others. This includes lawyers who collect debts on a regular basis.

The law is designed to eliminate abusive, deceptive and unfair debt collection practices. It applies to personal, family and household debts. This includes money owed for the purchase of a car, for medical care or for charge accounts.


The Telemarketing Sales Rule

The Telemarketing Sales Rule enforces a law passed to fight fraudulent activities carried out by telephone. Companies that violate the Rule may be subject to fines of $10,000 per violation. The FTC defines telemarketing as any plan, program or campaign to sell goods or services over the telephone.

The Rule requires specific disclosures.

For outbound calls, the following prompt (before any sales pitch is given) clear and conspicuous oral disclosures:

blue bullet point The seller’s identity;
blue bullet point That the purpose of the call is to sell;
blue bullet point The nature of the goods or services offered;
blue bullet point That no payment or purchase is necessary to win if a prize promotion is offered.
blue bullet point Prize promotion disclosures: the odds of winning, or if the odds can’t be calculated, the factors that determine the odds; that no purchase/no payment is necessary to win; a statement of no purchase/no payment method of entry; and any material restrictions or limitations on any offered prize.

A telemarketer cannot:

blue bullet point Call again once you’ve asked them not to;
blue bullet point Call you before 8:00 A.M. or after 9:00 P.M.;
blue bullet point Withdraw money from your checking account without your express, verifiable authorization;
blue bullet point Misrepresent the offer or the goods or services offered or make any false statement to get you to pay, no matter what method of payment you use;

EXCEPTIONS TO THE RULE

The Rule does not cover the following situation:

Sales of pay-per-call services and sales of franchises.


The Telephone Consumer Protection Act

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act imposes restrictions on the use of autodialers, artificial or prerecorded voice messages, and fax machines to send unsolicited advertisements. Different rules and regulations apply to calls placed to homes and calls placed to businesses. The rules do not apply to messages sent via e-mail or the Internet.

The FCC’s Do-Not-Call Rules require companies to keep a record of your request not to receive future sales calls for ten years.

EXCEPTIONS TO THE DO-NOT-CALL RULE REQUIREMENTS

blue bullet point Tax-exempt nonprofit organizations are not required to keep do-not-call lists.
blue bullet point The do-not-call rules do not apply to calls placed to your business telephone number. However, your state may have laws that apply to business telephone numbers.

RULES THAT APPLY TO COMPUTERIZED CALLS

Artificial (computerized) or prerecorded voice calls cannot be placed to your home, except for the following

blue bullet point Emergency calls;
blue bullet point Non-commercial calls (for example, calls from charities, polling organizations, political or government agencies);

(Prerecorded calls to business numbers are not prohibited but two or more lines of multi-line businesses cannot be tied up at the same time.)

Information that must be provided for those computerized or prerecorded calls that are not prohibited:

blue bullet point The company using the autodialer must clearly state its identity at the beginning of the message, and its telephone number or address during or after the message.
blue bullet point The telephone number provided cannot be the number of the autodialer that placed the call, and cannot be a 900 number or any other number where you’d have to pay a charge higher than local or long distance telephone charges.

RULES THAT APPLY TO AUTODIALED, ARTIFICIAL OR PRERECORDED VOICE CALLS PLACED TO EMERGENCY, CELLULAR TELEPHONE AND PAGER NUMBERS

The FCC’s rules prohibit the use of autodialers, artificial or prerecorded voice messages to call numbers assigned to:

blue bullet point Any emergency telephone line, including any 911 line and any emergency line of a hospital, medical physician or service office, health care facility, poison control center, or fire protection or law enforcement agency;
blue bullet point The telephone line of any guest or patient room of a hospital, health care facility, elderly home or similar establishment
blue bullet point Any telephone number assigned to a paging service, cellular telephone service or other radio common carrier services: or
blue bullet point Services for which you, as the person being called, would be charged for the call.

Rules applying to unsolicited fax advertisements sent to your home and business fax machines:

blue bullet point Advertisements for any goods or services cannot be sent to your fax machine without your prior express permission or invitation.

Taking action against reputable but obnoxious telemarketers:

U.S. Federal Law requires that telemarketing firms maintain a "do not call" list. Although this does not apply to nonprofit organizations asking to have your name and number placed on the list should reduce calls. Be sure to include all your personal and business lines as well.

When you do this keep track of the company’s name, number and address along with the telemarketers name and supervisors name. They are required by law to give it to you.

Send written confirmation of your request and keep a copy for your files

Under the U.S. federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act Public Law 102-243 you can sue in small claims court for actual damages or $500 per violation should they continue to call after your request to be placed on the "do not call" list.

Inexpensive and easy to do, the small claims process should provide satisfaction. It may even encourage the company to settle out of court, saving you further aggravation.


The Mail or Telephone Order Merchandise Rule

SHIP DATES

By law a company should ship your order within the time stated in its ads. If no time is promised the company should ship your order within 30 days.

DELAYS

If the company is unable to ship within the promised time, it must notify you by mail or telephone, give a revised shipping date and give you the option to cancel for a full refund.

REFUNDS

If payment is made by check or money order, the company must issue you a refund within seven business days.

If you authorized a charge to a credit card account, the company must credit the account within one billing cycle, not give credit toward a future purchase.


VIOLATIONS OF THE ACT AND THE RULES

Actions You Can Take:

Ask the solicitor to stop calling your telephone number or sending unsolicited ads to your fax machine;

Contact your local or state consumer protection of office to find out if your state permits you to file suit to stop solicitation calls or faxes and/or to file suit for actual monetary loss. The penalty for violations is generally $500 in damages or actual monetary losses, whichever is greater.

Violations of the Telemarketing Sales Rule, the Mail or Telephone Order Merchandise Rule, the 900-Number Rule, and the Fair Credit Billing Act should be reported to the Federal Trade Commission.

Send a letter to the FCC at the following address:

Federal Communications Commission
Common Carrier Bureau
Consumer Complaints
Mail Stop Code 1600A2
Washington, D.C. 20554

To learn more about your rights under the TCPA and FCC’s rules, you should read the FCC’s free brochure: What You Can Do About Unsolicited Telephone Marketing Calls and Faxes. To obtain a copy, call the FCC’s National Call Center at 1.888.225.5322 (TTY 1.888.835.5322).

The DMA also has brochures and services available to assist you:

Consumer Services Department
Direct Marketing Association
1111 19th Street, NW, Suite 1100
Washington, D.C. 20036

Mail Order Action Line

If your attempt is unsuccessful, the Direct Marketing Association’s Mail Order Action Line (MOAL), a free consumer service, will contact the company on your behalf.

Mail Order Action Line
Direct Marketing Association
1111 19th St., NW, Suite 1100
Washington, D.C. 20036

When consumers register with TPS, their names are placed on a name-removal file which is made available to participating marketers on a monthly or quarterly basis. It may take a few months before there is a noticeable decrease in the telephone marketing calls received. Names remain on TPS for five years.

To register, simply provide your complete name, home address, including apartment number if any, and ZIP code, along with your telephone number including area code and send it to:

Telephone Preference Service
c/o Direct Marketing Association
P.O. Box 9014
Farmingdale, NY 11735-9014

Federal Trade Commission
Consumer Response Center
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20580

Federal Communications Commission
Consumer Protection Branch
Common Carrier Bureau
Washington, DC 20554

Direct Marketing Association, Inc.
1120 Avenue of the Americas
New York, New York 10036-6700


United States Code TITLE 15 - COMMERCE AND TRADE - CHAPTER 87
TELEMARKETING AND CONSUMER FRAUD AND ABUSE PREVENTION

Section 6102. Telemarketing rules

(1) The FTC shall... rules prohibiting deceptive... and ...abusive telemarketing... which may include... individuals that assist... including credit card laundering.(3) ... rules respecting other abusive telemarketing... practices -(A) ... telemarketers may not undertake a pattern of unsolicited telephone calls which the reasonable consumer would consider coercive or abusive of such consumer's right to privacy,(B) restrictions on the hours of the day and night when unsolicited telephone calls can be made...and(C) ... any person engaged in telemarketing... shall promptly and clearly disclose... that the purpose of the call is to sell goods or services and... other disclosures... including the nature and price...... Commission shall also consider record keeping requirements.(b) Rulemaking ... shall be prescribed in accordance with section 553 of title 5.(c) Enforcement Any violation of any rule prescribed under subsection (a) of this section shall be treated as a violation of a rule under section 57a of this title regarding unfair or deceptive acts or practices.(d) Securities and Exchange Commission rules... shall... require any... registered securities association... rules to prohibit deceptive and other abusive telemarketing...practices...(B) Exception ... if ... rules adopted... provide protection from deceptive and other abusive telemarketing...

(2) Application ... shall apply to a broker, dealer, transfer agent... or any individual associated with..

Section 6103. Actions by States

(a) ... an attorney general of any State... may bring a civil action on behalf of its residents in an appropriate district court of the United States to enjoin such telemarketing, to enforce compliance with such rule of the Commission, to obtain damages, restitution, or other compensation on behalf of residents of such State, or to obtain such further and other relief as the court may deem appropriate.(b) Notice The State shall serve prior written notice of any civil action... and provide the Commission with a copy of its complaint... Commission shall have the right (1) to intervene in such action...(c) Construction ... nothing in this chapter shall prevent an attorney general from exercising the powers conferred... by the laws of such State...(d) Actions by Commission Whenever a civil action has been instituted by or on behalf of the Commission... no State may... institute a civil action under... this section...(e) Venue; service of process Any civil action...may be brought in the district in which the defendant is found, is an inhabitant, or transacts business or wherever venue is proper under section 1391 of title 28....(f) Actions by other State officials (1) Nothing contained in this section shall prohibit an authorized State official from proceeding in State court on the basis of an alleged violation of any civil or criminal statute of such State.(2) In addition to actions brought by an attorney general... such an action may be brought by officers of such State...Section 6104. Actions by private persons(a) In generalAny person adversely affected by... telemarketing which violates any rule of the Commission under section 6102... or an authorized person acting on such person's behalf, may, within 3 years after discovery of the violation, bring a civil action in an appropriate district court of the United States against a person... if the amount in controversy exceeds... $50,000 in actual damages for each person adversely affected by such telemarketing.Such an action may be brought to enjoin such telemarketing, to enforce compliance with any rule of the Commission under section 6102 of this title, to obtain damages, or to obtain such further and other relief as the court may deem appropriate.(b) Notice The plaintiff shall serve prior written notice of the action upon the Commission... Commission shall have the right (A) to intervene in the action...(c) Action by Commission Whenever a civil action has been instituted by or on behalf of the Commission...no person may... institute a civil action...(d) Cost and fees The court, in issuing any final order... may award costs of suit and reasonable fees for attorneys and expert witnesses to the prevailing party.(e) Construction Nothing in this section shall restrict any right which any person may have under any statute or common law.(f) Venue; service of process Any civil action... may be brought in the district in which the defendant is found, is an inhabitant, or transacts business... or wherever venue is proper...Section 6105. Administration and applicability of chapter(a) ... this chapter shall be enforced... under the Federal Trade Commission Act (15 U.S.C. 41 et seq.)...(b) ... Any person who violates such rule shall be subject to the penalties and entitled to the privileges and immunities provided in the Federal Trade Commission Act...(c) Nothing contained in this chapter shall be construed to limit the authority of the Commission under any other provision of law.Section 6106. Definitions... "telemarketing" means a plan, program, or campaign which is conducted to induce purchases of goods or services by use of one or more telephones and which involves more than one interstate telephone call. The term does not include the solicitation of sales through the mailing of a catalog...Section 6107. Enforcement of orders (a) ...the Federal Trade Commission may bring a criminal contempt action for violations of orders...(b) Appointment - An action...may be brought by the Federal Trade Commission only after... the appointment by the Attorney General of an attorney employed by the Commission, as a special assistant United States Attorney.(c) Request for appointment (1) Appointment upon request or motion A special assistant United States Attorney may be appointed under subsection (b) of this section upon the request of the Federal Trade Commission or the court which has entered the order for which contempt is sought or upon the Attorney General's own motion. (2) Timing The Attorney General shall act upon any request made under paragraph (1) within 45 days of the receipt of the request.

(d) ...ability of the Federal Trade Commission ...bring a criminal contempt action... expires 2 years after the date of the first promulgation of rules... The expiration of such authority shall have no effect on an action brought before the expiration date.


Section 5701. "Telephone Disclosure and Dispute Resolution Act"

As... Congress finds...(1) The use of pay-per-call services, ( 900 telephone numbers ), has grown...into a ... billion-dollar industry... Such services are convenient to consumers, cost-effective to vendors, and profitable to communications common carriers.(2) Many pay-per-call businesses provide valuable information... benefit the public.(3) The interstate nature... beyond the reach of individual States and therefore requires Federal regulatory treatment to protect the public interest.(4) The lack of nationally uniform regulatory guidelines has led to confusion... as to the rights of callers ... responsibilities of regulatory authorities...(5) Some interstate pay-per-call businesses have engaged in practices which... harmful to the public interest... cause harm to the many reputable businesses...(6) Because the consumer most often incurs a financial obligation as soon as a pay-per-call transaction is completed, the accuracy and descriptiveness of vendor advertisements become crucial in avoiding consumer abuse...(7) ... consumer confidence that unfair and deceptive behavior will be effectively curtailed and...have adequate rights of redress.

(8) Vendors of telephone-billed goods and services must also feel confident in their rights...

Section 5711. Federal Trade Commission regulations

(1) ... rules... to prohibit unfair and deceptive acts and practices in any advertisement for pay-per-call services.(A) clearly and conspicuously disclose in any advertising the cost of the use of such telephone number, including the total cost or the cost per minute and any other fees for that service and for any other pay-per-call service to which the caller may be transferred;(B) in the case of an advertisement which offers a prize or award or a service or product at no cost or for a reduced cost, clearly and conspicuously disclose the odds of being able to receive such...or, if such odds are not calculable in advance, disclose the factors determining such odds;(C) in the case of an advertisement that ... provides information on a Federal program, include at the beginning...clear disclosure that the service is not authorized, endorsed, or approved by any Federal agency;(D) shall not direct such advertisement at children under the age of 12, unless such service is a bona fide educational service;(E) in the case of advertising directed primarily to individuals under the age of 18, clearly and conspicuously state...must have the consent of such individual's parent or legal guardian for the use of such services;(F) be prohibited from using advertisements that emit electronic tones which can automatically dial a pay-per-call telephone number;(G) ... whenever the number to be called is shown... charges for the call are clear and conspicuous... displayed for the same duration as that number...(H) ...any telephone message soliciting calls... specify clearly, and at no less than the audible volume of the solicitation, the total cost and the cost per minute and any other fees for that service and for any other pay-per-call service to which the caller may be transferred; and(I) not advertise an 800 telephone number, or any other telephone number advertised or widely understood to be toll free, from which callers are connected to an access number for a pay-per-call service.(2) Pay-per-call service standards(B) enable the caller to hang up at or before the end of the introductory message without incurring any charge whatsoever;(D) stop the assessment of time-based charges immediately upon disconnection by the caller;(G) be prohibited from billing consumers in excess of the amounts described...(H) ...billing statement...shall - (i) display any charges...identified as not being related to local and long distance telephone charges; and(ii) for each charge so displayed, specify, at a minimum, the type of service, the amount of the charge, and the date, time, and duration of the call;(I) be liable for refunds to consumers...programs that...violated the regulations...(3) The Commission shall by rule require a common carrier that provides telephone services to a provider of pay-per-call services to make available to the Commission any records and financial information maintained by such carrier...(4) ... prohibit unfair or deceptive acts or practices that evade such rules... including the use of alternative billing or other procedures.(c) Enforcement - Any violation of any rule prescribed... shall be treated as a violation of a rule respecting unfair or deceptive acts or practices under section 45 of this title.Section 5712. Actions by States(a) I... the State may bring a civil action on behalf of its residents in an appropriate district court of the United States...(b) ... State shall serve prior written notice of any civil action ... upon the Commission...(c) ... action... may be brought in the district wherein the defendant is found or is an inhabitant or transacts business or wherein the violation occurred or is occurring...(d) Investigatory powers ... nothing in this chapter shall prevent the attorney general from... conducting investigations...(e) ... Nothing ...shall prohibit ... any general civil or criminal antifraud statute of such State.(f) Limitation Whenever the Commission has instituted a civil action... no State may, during the pendency of such action... subsequently institute a civil action...Section 5713. Administration and applicability of subchapter... Any person who violates such rule shall be subject to the penalties and entitled to the privileges and immunities provided in the Federal Trade Commission Ac...Section 5721. Regulations ... procedures for the correction of billing errors with respect to telephone-billed purchases... also include provisions to prohibit unfair or deceptive acts or practices that evade such rules...(2) Substantial similarity to credit billing... requirements that are substantially similar to ... resolution of credit disputes, under the Truth in Lending and Fair Credit Billing Acts (15 U.S.C. 1601 et seq., 1666 et seq.).(d) Correction of billing errors and correction of credit reports...Section 5724. Definitions ..."telephone-billed purchase" means any purchase that is completed solely as a consequence of the completion of the call or a subsequent dialing, touch tone entry, or comparable action of the caller.Such term does not include...(C) the purchase of goods or services which is otherwise subject to billing dispute resolution procedures...

(2) A "billing error" consists of any of the following: 

blue bullet point (A) telephone-billed purchase which was not made by the customer or, if made, was not in the amount reflected on such statement.
blue bullet point (B) ... purchase for which the customer requests additional clarification, including documentary evidence thereof.
blue bullet point (C) A reflection on a billing statement of a telephone-billed purchase that was not accepted by the customer or not provided to the customer in accordance with the stated terms of the transaction.
blue bullet point (D) ... purchase for a call made to a toll free telephone number.
blue bullet point (E) The failure to reflect properly on a billing statement a payment made by the customer or a credit issued to the customer with respect to a telephone-billed purchase.
blue bullet point (F) ...error of an accounting nature on a statement.
blue bullet point (G) Failure to transmit the billing statement to the last known address of the customer...

 

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