you have rights as a consumer

Posted : April 19, 2018
Last Updated : April 19, 2018

you have rights as a consumer

As a consumer, you’re protected from being ripped off. Learn how to understand the role of the FTC, explain bait and switch, and describe some ways to be a wise consumer.

You’re Protected

As a consumer, you buy and use a lot of stuff. And, honestly, sometimes we all buy things we don’t need; sometimes it’s just junk. So, what are you supposed to do if after you buy a new backpack, you get home and discover that one of the zippers is broken? Are you just supposed to live with it? Or maybe you pick out a great T-shirt that has a medium “M” label, but when you get home to try it on, it definitely fits like an extra-small. What can you do about that? There are laws put in place to protect you and your rights as a consumer. When you buy stuff and it doesn’t work, doesn’t fit, or is missing parts, you have the right as a consumer to get a refund or to get the item fixed or replaced.

The FTC is the Federal Trade Commission, and their job is to enforce the laws to protect consumers. The FTC protects consumers by stopping unfair, deceptive, or fraudulent practices in the marketplace. The FTC will also investigate companies to make sure they are not breaking the law. They also educate consumers about their rights and responsibilities. As a consumer, you have the right to submit a complaint to the FTC to report any unfair business practices that you encounter.

Bait and Switch

The “bait and switch” trick is an illegal scam to get your money. For example, a company might advertise something at a super low price to get you to come to the store so you can purchase the item. However, when you there and ask about the advertised deal (the bait) – surprise! – they are completely out of the item. Instead, they offer to sell you a similar, but more expensive, product (the switch). This is an act of fraud.

Dealing With Problems

No matter how carefully you research and plan your purchases, eventually you will end up with a product that has some sort of problem. It could be anything from the quality of the product to missing parts to the item breaking easily. So, what do you do when you run into one of these problems or any other problem?

The most important factor in dealing with a problem is to use a reasonable tone and explain your problem clearly. Yelling, screaming, and getting angry won’t help you resolve the situation any faster. Here are some ideas:
  • Return the item. Many problems can be resolved if you return the item to the store or contact the company if you ordered it online. This should be done as soon as you discover a problem. Keep a record of when you talk to someone.
  • Call the customer service department. Ask to speak to a supervisor. If you brought an item online, you can often find a “Contact Us” link to communicate a problem. You can also post a comment on social media. Make sure to use a reasonable tone and clearly state the problem.
  • Write a letter. Clearly describe the problem and state how you would like the problem resolved. Don’t be angry, sarcastic, or threatening. Make sure to include your phone number and address so the company can contact you.
  • Use state and federal agencies. If a phone call or a letter doesn’t help you resolve the problem, you can contact an agency to help you. The Better Business Bureau, the FTC, and other organizations can provide assistance in resolving complaints you may have with a company or product.

Common Consumer Problems

It is not uncommon to have a problem with something you buy. It happens to everyone. Here is a quick look at some of the stats and information related to these problems.

The Five Major Types of Complaints
  1. Performance/Operation: defective, broken, non-working items; missing parts; wrong size
  2. Customer Touch Points: behavior, attitude, performance, billing issues with employees/administration
  3. Marketing: misleading ads, brand didn’t deliver on promises
  4. Business/Company Service: complaints related to flaws, deficiencies, negligence, or problems with a business/company
  5. False Complaints: false postings of poor service or negative reviews posted just to be mean

In a recent national survey related to customer complaints, there were 2.5 million complaints registered:
  • Identity Theft Related (325,000) – e.g. driver’s license, Social Security numbers, personal information misused, government documents/benefits fraud
  • Fraud Related (1.5 million) – e.g. debt collection, email/phone scams, auto related, health care fraud
  • Other Types of Complaints (675,000) – e.g. shop-at-home issues, television and electronics issues, internet services, telephones and mobile services, computer equipment and software, home repair and improvement products

Be a Wise Consumer

Here are some great ideas to help you practice being a wise consumer, especially when you are considering a bigger purchase:
  • Research the item before you buy it and search for a better deal. Consider if the item is really worth the price.
  • Wait overnight before making a big purchase. Think about why you really want the item.
  • Talk with your parent or another adult about your decision.
  • Make sure you have the money and always pay cash.

Final Thought

As a consumer, you are protected from being ripped off, but you also need to use some common sense.

Source: Ramsey Solutions

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