Fortunately for consumers, in the United States, there are several consumer protection agencies that serve as watchdogs, working hard to ensure that products and services in the marketplace are as safe as possible. These agencies work in various ways to set safety standards, examine and test products, publish alerts about safety issues, and to enforce justice when there are lapses in the chain of product creation, use, performance or warranty fulfillment.
Primary watchdog activity is communicated to the public by major government agencies on their online websites. Agencies that keep an eye on safety matters and other consumer concerns include the Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, the Better Business Bureau, the American Automobile Association, AARP and others.
Watchdog Issues of Concern
While there is generally some effort by producers to maintain truth in advertising, there are many instances where the truth is hidden, sugar-coated or just ignored. These consumer watchdog agencies exist to help consumers determine what the truth about products and business services is, and how to avoid or deal with dangerous products or fraudulent businesses. They also set standards of excellence and performance, levy fines and work with manufacturers to improve product safety and performance. Protection of the consumer at all levels is their primary objective.
There are many safety issues that apply to vehicles of all types. A major concern is always anything that might harm a driver or passenger. Cars, trucks, busses, motorcycles, bicycles and other modes of transportation, like airplanes, must be produced with sufficient care to meet any applicable safety standards imposed by government regulators. There are several agencies that track this area of concern, including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a well-known government agency that mainly focuses on vehicle safety.
One instance of extreme negligence occurred in 2004, when airbag manufacturer Takata knew of problems with their airbag performance, but deliberately hid any publicity or notification about this issue. Meanwhile, airbags failed to deploy properly, sudden exploding airbags, and accidents occurred that caused injury and death to many people. By 2008, there were recalls of the vehicles outfitted with Takata airbags, ordering replacements. Vehicle manufacturers suffered high repair costs, and the initial recalls were only the tip of this safety iceberg. Between 2008 and 2016, recalls for Takata airbags have been issued for over 70 million vehicles worldwide. There have been about 180 accidents and 16 deaths directly attributed to airbag failures as well as many lawsuits around death and injury.
In other vehicle safety cases, problems have involved defective tires and brakes. These flaws also generated severe crashes in which many people were injured or killed. The consumer watchdog agencies publicized the problems and recalls. They also provide assistance for people who want to track their VIN number to see if there have been any recalls issued for their vehicles. This information is available at the www.safercar.gov website, and at other consumer websites including nhtsa.gov, Edmunds.com, recalls 3sknvg2.gov, and vehicle manufacturer websites.
Another area of concern for consumers is getting proper fulfillment for warranty issues. Manufacturers need to live up to their promises, both of product performance and any guarantees they make about their products. If they refuse to honor warranty promises, it could become a legal matter that may also result in high penalties. Many consumer decisions to purchase are based in part upon warranty promises and the expectation that those promises will be honored.
Fraudulent Business Practices
Consumer Watchdogs monitor business practices and they step in to ensure that fairness and truth are practiced by commercial businesses. Scam operations are discovered, and the public is notified of those fraudulent operations. The Federal Trade Commission has a Bureau of Consumer Protection that works to stop unfair, deceptive and fraudulent business operations. They collect complaints and then conduct investigations. When fraudulent business practices are found to exist, they sue the offenders. They also set forth rules for a fair marketplace, and they educate consumers and business owners about their fair business rights and responsibilities.
Financial matters are another area of concern both to consumer watchdog agencies and the public. There are strict rules to regulate lending practices, collection activities and interest rates. There are laws in the United States at federal and state levels to regulate consumer affairs and financial agreements. Commonly cited laws include the: Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, Fair Credit Reporting Act, Truth in Lending Act, Fair Credit Billing Act and the Gramm-Leach- Bliley Act. Enforcement of these laws is usually done by the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Food and Drug Administration, and the U.S. Department of Justice.
Great financial harm and personal distress may result from unethical and illegal financial agreements and collection practices. Typical agreements may involve real estate, credit cards, loans and other financial deals. These types of violations may also lead to a consumer lawsuit or class action lawsuit. Legal action may be required to halt unfair and illegal collection harassment and threats.
Legal Options to Consider for Resolving Product Issues
If you believe you have a product issue to resolve, it is time to seek help from an experienced lawyer who has handled this type of case successfully for many others. They will understand the extent of damage certain actions by product manufacturers, sellers and installers can have on consumers. They know how to stop illegal collection activities and threats by creditors. If you or your loved ones have been harmed due to a flawed product or one that did not meet warranty promises, they can help you obtain fair compensation for your claims. These legal professionals also have important contact information for consumer watchdog agencies and know how to properly file a claim that gets action.
Do not hesitate to consult with an attorney about these types of concerns. Most will offer a free initial consultation, and in some lawsuits, fees are billed on a contingency basis that allows you to get help with no fee unless your case is won. You may, of course, still be charged some minor office fees. Class Action lawsuits are another option to consider; the lawyer will be able to tell you if you qualify to enter into any available Class Action lawsuits.