Every business that deals with the general public must be aware of the various laws that have been passed to protect consumers. If you sell merchandise or provide services to consumers, you are subject to the rules and regulations set forth by the Federal Trade Commission.
Following is the mandate of the Bureau of Consumer Protection, from its Web site:
“The Bureau of Consumer Protection’s mandate is to protect consumers against unfair, deceptive, or fraudulent practices. The Bureau enforces a variety of consumer protection laws enacted by Congress, as well as trade regulation rules issued by the Commission. Its actions include individual company and industry-wide investigations, administrative and federal court litigation, rulemaking proceedings, and consumer and business education. In addition, the bureau contributes to the commission’s ongoing efforts to inform Congress and other government entities of the impact that proposed actions could have on consumers.”
The Bureau of Consumer Protection is divided into several divisions, each with its own areas of expertise:
- The Division of Advertising Practices protects U.S. consumers from deceptive or unsubstantiated advertising. The division’s focus is primarily on the following: tobacco and alcohol advertising; food and over-the-counter drug advertising; performance and energy-saving claims made on energy-related products; environmental performance claims made for consumer products; infomercial claims; and any advertising that makes claims which are difficult for consumers to evaluate themselves.
- The Division of Enforcement protects consumers through a variety of law enforcement activities, including ensuring compliance with court orders entered in consumer protection cases; conducting investigations and prosecuting civil actions to stop fraudulent, unfair, or deceptive marketing and advertising practices; and enforcing consumer protection laws, rules, and guidelines.
- The Division of Financial Practices enforces many of the nation’s consumer credit statutes, including the Consumer Leasing Act, the Credit Practices Rule, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Fair Credit Billing Act, and others.
- The Division of Marketing Practices investigates fraudulent marketing practices. It enforces federal consumer protection laws by filing actions in federal district court on behalf of the commission to stop scams, freeze the assets of scam artists, and help victims of scams obtain compensation.
- The Division of Planning and Information collects and analyzes data to target law enforcement and education efforts and measure the impact of activities related to the FTC’s consumer protection mission. The division is responsible for various projects and functions, including the Identity Theft Program and the Consumer Response Center.
- The Office of Consumer and Business Education (OCBE) plans and implements public education campaigns for consumers and industry about fraud, deception, and unfair practices. The OCBE produces, promotes, and disseminates educational messages and materials to the widest possible audience through multifaceted communications and outreach programs using print, broadcast, and electronic media.