Find consumer affairs departments. Consumer affairs departments provide information on consumer protection, fraud complaints, debt reporting agencies, and consumer rights advocates.
A Consumer Affairs Department is a government agency responsible for protecting consumers from fraud, unfair business practices, and physical injury from unsafe goods or services. The Consumer Affairs Department also educates consumers about their rights. Consumer Affairs Departments exist at both the state and federal levels of government.
At the federal level, the Bureau of Consumer Protection, an agency within the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), is responsible for protecting consumers from unfair, fraudulent, or deceptive business practices. The Bureau of Consumer Protection accomplishes its mission by collecting complaints from consumers, conducting investigations regarding potential violations of consumer law, pursuing lawsuits against violators, and developing rules to maintain a fair marketplace. The Bureau's Division of Consumer and Business Education aims to equip consumers with the information they need to protect themselves. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which also operates at the federal level, was created specifically to protect consumers from unfair, deceptive, or abusive financial practices, such as predatory lending.
Although their agency names vary, each state has a Consumer Affairs Department, usually within the office of the Attorney General. State Consumer Affairs Departments file lawsuits on behalf of consumers, investigate possible violations, issue injunctions against illegal activity, obtain restitution for consumers, file criminal cases, and make rules to govern trade practices. These agencies also use a variety of methods to educate consumers about product safety and consumer rights. In some states, Consumer Affairs Departments are also responsible for licensing and regulating professions such as real estate brokers or insurance agents.
When a complaint is filed with the Consumer Affairs Department, the agency investigates it and has the authority to pursue legal action on behalf of the consumer or group of consumers. Before taking legal action, the agency will often attempt to mediate a solution, which may include a refund or restitution. The agency may also make the results of its investigations public, in an effort to educate others on how to best protect themselves. The Consumer Affairs Department also works with the state legislature on consumer protection policies, providing advice on matters that affect consumers.