This post is coauthored by Barbara Bavis and Robert Brammer, senior legal reference specialists.
Consumer protection touches on a number of areas of law, and as such, has been broadly defined by Nolo’s Plain-English Law Dictionary as “[f]ederal and state laws established to protect retail purchasers of goods and services from inferior, adulterated, hazardous, and deceptively advertised products, and deceptive or fraudulent sales practices; these laws cover everything from food to cosmetics, from banking to fair housing.” Because laws that deal with consumer protection can be found in several different areas of law, starting one’s research in “consumer protection law” can be somewhat overwhelming. Through this Beginner’s Guide, we hope to provide some access points to this significant field of study.
Federal and State Statutes and Regulations
Many consumer protection laws can be found in both federal and state statutes. Federal statutes can be found in the U.S. Code. You can access state statutes through our Guide to Law Online page. Indexes are generally not available online, so it helps if you know the name of the title or code which is concerned with consumer protection so you can browse that title. The organization of statutes varies by jurisdiction, but you might want to look in areas like: “commerce and trade”; “public health and welfare”; “banks and banking”; “business and professions”; “commercial codes”; “insurance”; “health and safety”; “food and agriculture”; “regulation of trade, commerce, investments, and solicitations”; “commercial relations”; “motor vehicle sales”; and, as you might expect, “consumer protection.”
Be sure to also check federal and state regulations that implement consumer protection statutes.
You may also want to locate cases that support your claim. You can locate free case law online. In addition to searching for keywords of interest, you may want to search for cases that cite to the consumer protection statutes you have located. Also, be sure to visit your local law library to use a legal citator like KeyCite or Shepard’s to make sure the cases you wish to rely upon have not been questioned, distinguished, overturned, or repealed by a subsequent case or statute.
As always, we suggest that researchers entirely new to an area of law like this start their research by using a secondary source, like a book or journal article. Below, please find a selection of resources from the Law Library of Congress collection that might be good options for a researcher new to consumer protection law:
- Consumer Protection Law in a Nutshell, by Gene A. Marsh
- Consumer Survival: An Encyclopedia of Consumer Rights, Safety, and Protection, edited by Wendy Reiboldt and Melanie Horn Mallers
- Consumer Law & Protection: A Practical Approach for Paralegals and the Public, by Neal R. Bevans
- Everyday Law for Consumers, by Michael L. Rustad
- Problems and Materials on Consumer Law, by Douglas J. Whaley
- Consumer Class Actions, by Stuart T. Rossman and Charles Delbaum
- Selected Consumer Statutes, edited by John A. Spanogle
- Consumer Arbitration Agreements: Enforceability and Other Topics, by F. Paul Bland
- Review of Consumer Protection Law Developments, by Section of Antitrust Law, American Bar Association
- Consumer Rights Law, by Margaret C. Jasper
- Consumer Law: Cases and Materials, by John A. Spanogle, Ralph J. Rohner, Dee Pridgen, Jeff Sovern, and Christopher L. Peterson
In addition to the resources listed above, researchers can find a substantial amount of information and guidance on the free web, including the wealth of information included in these websites:
- Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection
- Homepage: http://www.ftc.gov/about-ftc/bureaus-offices/bureau-consumer-protection
- Consumer.gov: http://www.consumer.gov/
- Consumer Information Blog: http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/
- Consumer Advocates Information: http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/feature-0010-consumer-advocates
- Commission and Staff Reports: http://www.ftc.gov/policy/reports/policy-reports/commission-and-staff-reports
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: http://www.consumerfinance.gov/
- Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation – Consumer Protection: https://www.fdic.gov/consumers/
- Department of Justice Consumer Protection Branch: http://www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch-home
- OnGuardOnline: http://www.onguardonline.gov/
- Consumer Product Safety Commission: http://www.cpsc.gov/
- Better Business Bureau: http://www.bbb.org/
- National Association of Consumer Advocates: http://www.consumeradvocates.org/issues
- National Consumer Law Center – Brochures: http://www.nclc.org/for-consumers/brochures-by-topic.html
- Global Legal Monitor – Topic: Consumer Protection: //www.loc.gov/lawweb/servlet/lloc_news?browse_topic_Consumer-protection
- National Consumer Protection Week – Consumer Topics: http://www.ncpw.gov/consumer-topics
- GSA Federal Citizen Information Center – Consumer Action Handbook: http://www.usa.gov/topics/consumer/consumer-action-handbook.pdf
- Local Sources (Generally, state consumer protection sections can be found in the attorney general’s office)
- DC Office of the Attorney General – Consumer Protection: http://oag.dc.gov/service/consumer-protection-asst
- Virginia Office of the Attorney General – Consumer Protection: http://www.oag.state.va.us/index.php/citizen-resources/consumer-protection
- Maryland Attorney General Consumer Protection Division: http://www.oag.state.md.us/Consumer/index.Htm
We hope you found our Beginner’s Guide to Consumer Protection helpful. Are there any other topics you would like to see featured in a Beginner’s Guide? Please let us know in the comments.
Thanks for contbiruting. It’s helped me understand the issues.