Consumer protection law covers a number of different interrelated subject areas intended to protect consumers including bankruptcy, commercial law, real estate, debtor-creditor and privacy law. It is governed by both federal and state laws as well as a complex array of state and federal agencies and regulations. This guide introduces the major federal and California laws governing consumer protection, as well as the federal and California agencies enforcing and regulating those laws.
Research using secondary sources is often a useful approach to understanding a legal topic, and a good way to begin your research on consumer protection, a topic addressed in a number of different areas of law. This guide includes information about print and/or electronic access to the major consumer law treatises and practice guides.
Federal Consumer Laws
There are over 70 federal laws that touch on some aspect of consumer protection. This is a selective list of the major federal consumer protection laws.
The Federal Trade Commission has enforcement or administrative responsibilities under more than 70 laws touching on various aspects of consumer protection. The Enforcement section of the FTC's website includes a list briefly summarizing each of these acts with links to the text of each act as it appears in the US Code. As they explain on their website: "The agency’s primary statutes, the Federal Trade Commission Act and the Clayton Act, appear first followed by all of the other statutes in alphabetical order. The links for the statutes primarily are to uscode.house.gov, which updates the statutes on a regular basis."
A number of federal agencies regulate the various aspects of consumer law, including the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the Consumer Financial Protection Board. All federal agencies publish their rules and regulations in the Federal Register and Code of Federal Regulations(C.F.R.). Some selected sections dealing with consumer protection include:
The rules and regulations of the Consumer Financial Protection Board
Includes the Federal Trade Commission's and Consumer Protection Safety Commission's rules and regulating various commercial practices effecting consumers.
Includes the Commodity Futures Trading Commission regulations covering Gramm-Leach-Billey Act consumer privacy protections.
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Pub. L. 111-203) was passed in July 2010. Title X of this law amends a number of the existing consumer laws listed above. It also created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau within the Federal Reserve Board. An extensive, compiled legislative history of the Dodd-Frank Act is available on the Hein Online Database. A subject search for "Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act" in the Law Library's online catalog provides many additional electronic and print resources for researching this act.