Scriven Law Office Attorney at Law

The Basic Rights and Protections of A Consumer


When a person buys an item or service for personal, family or household use or purposes, it is a consumer purchase.  Such big ticket items like automobiles, refrigerators, home furniture, and home improvement or repair contacts are considered consumer purchases.  Also, the purchase of such things as classes for martial arts schools training, courses for career development skills, and investment advice targeted to individuals for personal finances are consumer transactions.  Consumer purchases and transactions are covered by special laws that give extra protection to the purchaser as opposed to a business purchase or business contract.

There are both federal laws and Virginia laws that seek to protect the consumer from being taken advantage of in a non-business setting purchase as a means of enforcing public policy to protect unscrupulous creditors from taking advantage of consumers.  Let’s take a look at the considerations involved with the consumer’s decision to begin the process of looking to make a purchase on credit.

A typical situation may involve the consumer’s decision to purchase an automobile on credit.  The first protection that the consumer should look at in this situation is what will it cost me to buy a car on credit and how do I assure myself that the seller does not charge me fees and interest that will make the purchase of the automobile on credit more expensive than what I would pay for the same car at another dealer. 

To begin with, the Federal Truth In Lending Act will normally apply to the proposed automobile purchase contract that extends credit to the buyer.  This Act is usually referred to with the abbreviation of TILA.  The dealer is required by the TILA to provide the consumer with clearly written information that spells out each essential element of the proposed financial terms and conditions of the purchase contract in order for the consumer to know the total cost of buying the item on credit.  This law is intended to make the consumer aware of the cost of the item purchased on credit with an installment payment basis in order to allow the consumer to shop around for a better financing deal before signing the contract.

If the dealer’s contract violates the TILA, the consumer has a claim for damages under the TILA, if the claim is sued upon within the normal one year’s statute of limitations period.  In addition, the consumer is entitled to be awarded reasonable attorney’s fees for a successful claim regardless of the amount of damages that are recovered by the consumer.

It is important to note that even if the consumer does not file a claim before the statute of limitations has run on her claim,the consumer may use a violation of the TILA as a defense if the dealer sues for non-payment of the debt covered by the contract that did not comply with the TILA.  This defense is a complete defense to the lawsuit filed by the creditor regardless of the length of time that has expired since the TILA violation.  For example, if the creditor files a lawsuit on the debt more than two years after the contract was created with the violation of the TILA, the consumer has a complete defense of recoupment to defeat the creditor’s claim.  Not only will the consumer acquire a defense judgment in her favor, but she is entitled to receive an award of reasonable attorney’s fees and costs because of the TILA violation.

The TILA may be enforced in the state courts of Virginia as well as in federal courts.  In addition, Virginia has consumer protection laws that give additional protections to consumer purchases and transactions that are not covered by the TILA.  While the TILA focuses on informing the consumer of the true costs of buying on credit, the Virginia consumer protection laws protect consumers from fraudulent acts by creditors and other deceptive or unscrupulous acts, regardless of the existence of a contract that complies with the TILA.

 

This article is not intended to render legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship with Scriven Law Offices.  It is provided as a public service, only.  For specific advice, the reader should consult an attorney who practices law in the area of law where there is a question by the reader