CALIFORNIA CONSUMER PROTECTION LAWS
The interests of the rich and powerful always have a voice, while ordinary consumers have difficulty making their voices heard.
Standing up to banks and large corporations that deceive their California customers is made possible by federal and California consumer protection laws.
An important legal tool that protects consumers is the ability to start a class action lawsuit. The bank that cheats you out of a few dollars every month is probably doing the same thing to millions of other customers.
The advertisement that deceived you also deceived others. Credit reporting agencies, debt collectors, and companies that fail to protect your data all harm large numbers of consumers when they violate consumer protection laws.
By bringing consumer claims as class action lawsuits, consumers can obtain vindication for themselves and others when individual lawsuits would not be practical.
California class action consumer protection lawsuits give consumers the power to change the behavior of powerful companies.
Excessive Bank Fees and Charges
Federal regulations that took effect in 2010 protect consumers from excessive overdraft fees. Despite those regulations, a 2014 Pew study showed that many consumers are still be subjected to overdraft fees that they did not agree to pay.
Federal and California laws also protect consumers from financial fraud. Considering all of those laws and regulations together, California consumers are protected from:
- Being enrolled in a bank’s “overdraft protection program” and exposed to the overdraft fees it charges unless the bank customer expressly agreed to join the program
- Manipulation of deposits and withdrawals to generate overdraft fees
- Charging excessive fees for late credit card payments
- Charging an “inactivity fee” when customers do not use their credit cards
- Increasing interest rates (other than for late payments) during the first year after a credit card account is opened
- Applying interest rate increases (other than for late payments) to existing balances
- Allocating payments in a way that maximizes interest charges
Other practices may also be unlawful if they benefit banks by deceiving customers. Bank and credit card customers who feel they are paying excessive charges should get legal advice.
Unlawful Debt Collection Practices
A federal law known as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act prohibits debt collection practices that harass consumers.
Debt collectors can be held accountable when they bother consumers in ways that violate the law, including:
- Calling after 9:00 p.m. and before 8:00 a.m.
- Calling repeatedly or letting the phone ring continuously
- Failing to honor a written request to stop calling the debtor
- Contacting a debtor who is known to be represented by an attorney
- Making threats, shouting, or using abusive language
- Publishing a consumer’s name on a list of debtors who do not pay their bills
- Misrepresenting facts
- Trying to collect a debt that doesn’t exist
- Trying to collect more than the debtor owes
- Threatening a repossession that the law does not allow
Many other annoying debt collection practices are also prohibited by law.
Individuals who believe they been subjected to harassing or unlawful debt collection practices should seek legal advice.
Credit Report Violations
Credit reporting bureaus can damage reputations and destroy credit ratings when they make mistakes, or fail to correct mistakes, in credit reports.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act is a federal law that gives consumers relief when they are harmed by credit reporting bureaus. Unlawful actions that harm consumers include:
- Reporting inaccurate information
- Identifying another person’s bad debt as the consumer’s
- Failing to investigate when notified that information is inaccurate
- Failing to resolve a dispute within 30 days after receiving notice of its existence
- Supplying a credit report to someone who is not authorized to receive it
- Reporting negative information that is more than 7 years old
California consumers can seek justice by using the Fair Credit Reporting Act when they have been harmed by credit report violations.
Deceptive Advertising and Packaging
Consumers have a right to make buying decisions on truthful information. When companies engage in false or deceptive advertising, they violate federal and California laws that are designed to protect that right.
Examples of false or deceptive advertising or packaging include:
- Advertising a product as “Made in U.S.A.” when most of its components are made in foreign countries.
- Misrepresenting the weight or quantity of a product inside a package
- Stating that a product as “natural” when it includes artificial ingredients or as “organic” when it has not been organically grown.
- Claiming that a product is “clinically proven” to achieve certain results when no such proof exists.
- Publishing fake reviews of a product or a service provider.
- Advertising “no hidden fees” when a customer is required to pay undisclosed fees.
- Claiming that an herbal supplement has health benefits when no studies support the claim
- Advertising that a product (such as a light bulb) lasts longer than other products when the claim is not true
- Falsely claiming that a product will help consumers lose weight
- Advertising a hotel room at a low price without disclosing that the price is much higher after room taxes and service charges are added
Bait-and-switch advertising also violates the law. A business is not allowed to advertise a product or service at a particular price with the intent to sell that product or service at a higher price, or to induce customers to buy a more expensive product.
Claiming that the advertised product is “sold out” while offering the buyer a more expensive alternative is an example of bait-and-switch advertising.
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act is the primary federal law protecting consumers from aggressive telemarketing tactics.
Telemarketers violate the law when they use automated dialers to deliver a recorded message or a message spoken by an artificial voice. Telemarketers also violate the law when they:
- Call a number that is on a “do not call” list
- Call a number after its owner tells the telemarketer to place the number on its “do not call” list
- Call before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m.
Other violations include sending spam texts and junk faxes.
When so much information is stored electronically, consumers are vulnerable to financial losses when electronic data is stolen from a company that fails to protect it.
Losses can be caused when credit card numbers or account passwords are stolen, but data breaches can also expose consumers to identity theft when identifying information, including addresses and social security numbers, are accessed by thieves.
Companies often fail to notify consumers of data breaches, or they delay notification, giving hackers time to use or sell the stolen data.
Consumers who learn they have been victimized by a data breach can join a class action lawsuit to obtain a remedy on behalf of all the victims of a data breach.
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Our consumer protection lawyers provide free consultations to anyone in California who feels that they have been wronged by a business or institution. Contact us today to receive a free consultation with no obligation to retain our services.