How Advocacy Groups Protect Vulnerable Consumers

May 28, 2015 by

 

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by Casey Coates Danson

A wide array of consumer protection laws have been implemented in order to keep customers safe from false advertising, predatory lending, and other common forms of corporate abuse. Despite the presence of these regulations, a shocking number of individuals still find themselves the victim of a variety of underhanded business tactics.

Standing between these consumer victims and problematic corporate schemes are a growing collection of consumer advocacy groups, which work to protect consumers from fraudulent practices. The impact of these groups continues to grow&mdash;in fact, a Mathematica Policy Research evaluation of Consumer Voices for Coverage indicated that 62 percent of policymakers believe that consumer advocacy groups play an instrumental role in <a href=”http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/30/9/1799.full”>health policy discussions.

From healthcare to manufacturing, their work is wide-ranging, extending from individual assistance with filing complaints to testifying in front of the Supreme Court.

Filing Complaints

The first step to fighting fraud involves filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Bureau of Consumer Protection. Once a complaint has been successfully filed, the Bureau of Consumer Protection shares the issue with partnered law enforcement officials, who then thoroughly investigate the offending businesses. The filing process can be confusing in the best of circumstances; this is where consumer advocacy groups come into play.

Organizations such as the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) provide clear instructions for those looking to file complaints about “http://www.nclc.org/foreclosure-prevention-counseling-additional-resources/national-mortgage-settlement-checklist.html”>fraudulent lending practices and other matters. With their helpful guidance through an otherwise complicated process, individuals can stay on the right track. If the information published through such non-profit organizations proves insufficient, individuals in need of assistance can seek advice from on-call representatives.

Consumer Protection and Identity Theft

Identity theft crimes account for a significant percentage of annual FTC complaints. Although it is well-worth the time to file a complaint and organize with others who have been victimized by fraudulent practices, it may also be wise for individuals to take precautions to minimize the risk of future incidents. One of LifeLock’s main goals is to protect the average consumer against the threat of identity theft through the detection of suspicious activity. In addition to offering services that monitor file sharing, credit applications, and other identity threats, LifeLock provides valuable information for consumers eager to reduce their risks.

Lobbying for Improved Legislation

In addition to helping consumers file complaints with the FTC and providing personalized advice, consumer advocacy groups also promote legislative efforts that will make it more difficult for predatory companies to engage in shady practices in the first place. The National Association of Consumer Advocates (NACA) is particularly invested in legislative efforts.

Testifying in Court

Although consumer advocacy groups’ complaint filing and legislative efforts are greatly appreciated by the consumers they strive to protect, the greatest impact they have often occurs in the courtroom. Many advocacy groups assist with high-profile consumer cases, filing amicus briefs for courts on the regional, state, and federal level. These amicus briefs can prove quite influential, often resulting in court rulings that hold fraudulent businesses accountable.

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