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National Consumer Protection Week: “March”ing Toward Consumer Justice at S.C. Legal Services

National Consumer Protection Week: “March”ing Toward Consumer Justice at S.C. Legal Services

Every year, the second week of March marks an important occasion: National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW). It’s a time dedicated to raising awareness about consumer rights, safety, and empowerment. But why do we celebrate it? And what are the laws in place to protect consumers, both federally and here in South Carolina? Those are the questions we provide answers to each March and throughout the years as we strive to educate and enforce the rights of consumers in S.C.

Why National Consumer Protection Week?

Consumer protection is fundamental to maintaining trust in the marketplace. It ensures that consumers are treated fairly, provided accurate information, and shielded from fraud and scams. National Consumer Protection Week serves as a reminder of the importance of these rights and encourages individuals to educate themselves about their protections.

This annual event aims to empower consumers to make informed decisions, navigate the complexities of the marketplace, and seek recourse if they encounter unfair or deceptive practices. It’s a collaborative effort involving government agencies, consumer advocacy organizations, and businesses to promote transparency and accountability.

S.C. Legal Services (SCLS) observed NCPW throughout the month of March with activities, presentations and the sharing of our consumer protection educational materials and resources. Our weekly Level Up Law program held a series of episodes outlining four types of scams and frauds from our “Hall of Shame”. We shared information and resources in Consumer Bingo games held throughout the state.

Although at SCLS we focus on this particular consumer protection week, our attorneys and staff participate in these and other activities throughout the month of March as well as throughout the entire year. Holiday Scam information in December, and how to avoid Romance Scams in February are just a couple of examples of other programs we’ve shared with our South Carolina communities.

Federal Consumer Protection Laws

The United States has several federal laws in place to safeguard consumer interests across various sectors. So, we shared information in social media posts and in person presentations about the laws that protect S.C. consumers. Some of the key ones include:

1. The Federal Trade Commission Act (FTCA): Enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), this law prohibits unfair or deceptive acts or practices in commerce. It serves as the primary basis for consumer protection enforcement at the federal level.

2. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA): This law regulates the collection, dissemination, and use of consumer credit information. It grants consumers certain rights regarding their credit reports and ensures accuracy and privacy.

3. The Truth in Lending Act (TILA): TILA requires lenders to disclose key terms and costs of credit, enabling consumers to make informed decisions when borrowing money.

4. The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act: It governs warranties on consumer products, ensuring that consumers receive clear and detailed information about warranty coverage and terms.

Consumer Protection in South Carolina

In addition to federal laws, each state has its own regulations to protect consumers. In South Carolina, a number of statutes offer safeguards and remedies for consumers. To name a few:

1. South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act: This law prohibits unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of trade or commerce. It provides consumers with avenues for legal recourse against deceptive business practices.

2. South Carolina Consumer Protection Code: Encompassing various regulations, this code addresses issues such as credit transactions, retail installment sales, and unfair trade practices. It outlines consumer rights and establishes standards for fair dealing in consumer transactions.

3. South Carolina Identity Theft Protection Act: This legislation aims to combat identity theft by requiring businesses to implement security measures to protect consumers’ personal information. It also outlines procedures for victims of identity theft to report and recover from the crime.

4. South Carolina Dealers and Distributors Act: Focusing on car dealerships, this Act deals with unfair and deceptive acts and practices that car dealers engage in.

As we observe National Consumer Protection Week in March and beyond, it’s crucial to recognize the significance of consumer rights and the role of laws in upholding them. Whether at the federal or state level, these regulations serve to promote fairness, transparency, and accountability in the marketplace. By staying informed and advocating for consumer protections, we contribute to a safer and more equitable environment for all.