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.
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:
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.
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:
made the purchase in your home state or within 100 miles
of your current billing address. The charge must be for more
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
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.
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.
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:
false claims about their services;
you until they have completed the promised services; or
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
Your contract must specify:
payment terms for services, including their total cost;
detailed description of the services to be performed;
long it will take to achieve the results;
guarantees they offer; and
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
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
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
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:
the purpose of the call is to sell;
nature of the goods or services offered;
no payment or purchase is necessary to win if a prize promotion
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:
again once you’ve asked them not to;
you before 8:00 A.M. or after 9:00 P.M.;
money from your checking account without your express, verifiable
the offer or the goods or services offered or make any false
statement to get you to pay, no matter what method of payment
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
nonprofit organizations are not required to keep do-not-call
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
Artificial (computerized) or prerecorded voice calls cannot be
placed to your home, except for the following
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:
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.
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:
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;
telephone line of any guest or patient room of a hospital,
health care facility, elderly home or similar establishment
telephone number assigned to a paging service, cellular telephone
service or other radio common carrier services: or
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:
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
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
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.
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.
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
Federal Communications Commission
Common Carrier Bureau
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
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
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
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
Section 6102. Telemarketing rules
TELEMARKETING AND CONSUMER FRAUD AND ABUSE PREVENTION
(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:
telephone-billed purchase which was not made by the customer
or, if made, was not in the amount reflected on such statement.
... purchase for which the customer requests additional clarification,
including documentary evidence thereof.
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
... purchase for a call made to a toll free telephone number.
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.
...error of an accounting nature on a statement.
Failure to transmit the billing statement to the last known
address of the customer...