By: Robert J. Nahoum
In each state, the protection of consumers from unscrupulous businesses is left in the hands of the Attorney General. However, because they have limited budgets and are elected officials subject to the political whims of the day, Attorneys General are not capable of addressing each instance of commercial wrong doing.
To ease the burden on the Attorneys’ General and to empower consumers, most consumer protection laws have assembled an army of private attorneys by including “Private Rights of Action”. A private right of action simply empowers private attorneys to do whatever the Attorneys General are authorized to do. Thus, we have the Private Attorneys General.
To add teeth to the private right of action, most consumer protection laws are “fee shifting” meaning that if the consumer is successful in his or her lawsuit, the offending business must pay the consumer’s reasonable attorneys’ fees. Because these laws are fee shifting, most consumer attorneys will handle a consumer protection case without ever charging the consumer a penny.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO:
Federal and state consumer protection laws with private rights of action include:
- The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA, relating to the debt collection industry);
- The Fair Credit Report Act (FCRA, relating to credit reports);
- The Truth In Lending Act (TILA, relating to lending like mortgages and care loans);
- The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act (MMWA, relating to warranties of products);
- The Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act(RESPA, relating to real estate sales);
- New York Deceptive Acts and Practices Law (NY DAP, relating to deceptive business practices in New York).
If you’ve been victimized by an unscrupulous business, seek out and find a qualified consumer attorney. Due to the fee shifting nature of consumer protection laws, you may not have to pay any attorneys’ fees out of pocket to protect your rights as a consumer.
If you need help with a consumer protection issue, contact us today to see what we can do for you.