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Learn about your rights as a consumer

March 17, 2015

By Pam Leibfried

Sunday was World Consumer Rights Day. It is commemorated on this date because on March 15, 1962, the U.S. Congress approved the first Bill for Consumer Rights, as championed by President John F. Kennedy. In honor of this anniversary, today I’d like to share with you some tips and resources that will help you to ensure that your rights as a consumer are protected when it comes to your financial transactions.

Get a magnifying glass?

Read the fine print when you sign any financial document! Is the “free” offering only free for the first 60 days and after that, you’ll be automatically enrolled at a high monthly fee? Does the “low-low rate” for the loan only apply for the first six months, and then the rate skyrockets? If you only read the inch-high headline at the top of the ad, you may not know what you’re really signing up for. Keep in mind this old expression: Let the buyer beware! [Quick tip: Although the magnifying glass headline was a joke, if you do need some magnification to read small type, check at craft stores; I found a 5”x7” magnifying sheet in the embroidery aisle of a craft store, and it was dirt cheap.]

Do your research

Before you make a big purchase, do some quick research online. If you’re unfamiliar with the company, check to see if the Better Business Bureau has received a lot of complaints about it. Do online reviewers mostly trash it? If so, that great deal may come back to bite you.

Learn about your rights under the law

  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). A key part of the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009 was the creation of the CFPB. Part of the agency’s mission is to inform American consumers of their rights and responsibilities when it comes to financial transactions. The bureau’s website includes an informative blog, reports on a variety of financial products and forms for filing complaints when you believe that your legal rights have been violated.
     
  • The Federal Trade Commission (FTC). This agency’s primary goal is to protect consumers by preventing fraud, deception and unfair business practices in the marketplace. Its website provides summaries of common scams, information for victims of fraud and identity theft, tips and advice via its Business and Consumer Information blogs, forms to submit complaints and links to the National Do Not Call Registry, which it administers.