Consumer Watchdogs are the Best Form of Consumer Protection

Consumer watchdogs fight for everyone’s consumer rights.  Consumer protection legislation has been passed in every state to allow consumers to act as these watchdogs, legally known as private attorneys general, to protect and enforce their consumer rights when those rights are threatened by abusive or deceptive companies.  In Utah, for example, the Utah Consumer Sales Practices Act (UCSPA) allows consumers to sue companies that act in a deceptive, fraudulent, or abusive manner.  Most states have similar consumer rights laws.

Without these laws consumers would find themselves venerable to abusive and deceptive sales practices with little recourse.  Consumer watchdog complaints would go largely unresolved.  For example, in door-to-door sales the Utah Consumer Sales Practices Act allows a three day right to cancel the agreement whereas without the Act no such right would exist.  Other consumer rights are also protected under the Act.  For example, companies cannot lie about the benefits, uses, sponsorships, or performance characteristics of a product or service nor can they falsely claim a used item is new.

The Utah Consumer Sales Practices Act also allows consumer watchdogs to recover a minimum award of $2000 even if actual damages are less.  This is great news because many consumer disputes involve damages that are substantially lower than $2000.  This minimum award greatly increases the risk to a deceptive company if the case winds up in court which encourages them to seek settlements for more reasonable resolutions without the need for judicial intervention.

In complicated cases, consumer protection lawyers can help you, the consumer watchdog, enforce consumer rights laws but some consumers can do so on their own without legal assistance.  For them, small claims courts are the best way to recover money from a company that has harmed you and refuses to issue a refund.  Small claims courts use simplified rules of evidence and procedure to allow consumers their day in court without the expense of hiring a consumer attorney.  Many consumer protection attorneys, however, offer services on a contingency basis allowing consumers to hire an attorney essentially for free since the attorney only gets paid from the proceeds of a settlement or verdict is the consumer’s favor.

When consumers sue a company for deceptive sales practices they are consumer watchdogs for everyone whether they hire an attorney or handle the case themselves.  Lawsuits often awaken the company owners to the consequences of their wrongful behavior though unfortunately some abusive companies are already aware they are abusing consumers since doing so is profitable.  For them, ignoring consumer complaints is standard procedure since many consumers do not understand their rights or how to enforce those rights.  In those cases, the best consumer protection possible is for consumer watchdogs to act as private attorneys general and hold abusive and deceptive companies accountable.

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