Consumer laws are in place to offer consumer protection against unscrupulous business practices, including debt collection. An experienced consumer protection lawyer can help you not only relieve your debt but also collect damages if you are struggling with a lemon, feeling defrauded by a car dealership or being harassed by a debt collector. Attorneys who specialize in consumer law take on finance companies, debt collectors, repossession agencies, banks and a variety of other business for unlawful acts.
California Lemon Law
Most states have some sort of lemon law for consumer protection, and California is no different. Traditionally, vehicles that come from the manufacturer with a number of underlying issues that cause a constant need for repair are called lemons. This is what lemon laws are referring to.
In California, lemon laws are covered by the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act. These statutes cover cars, trucks, motorcycles, boats and motorhomes that are still under a manufacturer’s written warranty. If that vehicle develops a serious problem, the buyer must be given a replacement vehicle or his money back if the car cannot be repaired within a reasonable number of trips to the garage.
Auto dealer fraud stems primarily from purchases of used cars. Any time a dealer purposely misleads a customer, they may be guilty of fraud. The most common ways this occurs is through omission of information. If a car has been wrecked or salvaged, this must be disclosed to the customer before the vehicle is purchased. When a dealer commits fraud by not sharing this information, the customer often learns of the car’s history because they quickly find they that the frame is bent, notice the tires wear unevenly or quickly, or spot indications of body work. Vehicle history reports such as Carfax have reduced this type of fraud, although these reports can sometimes be misleading. The reports may not be entirely accurate, and are much more likely to have an omission than information that is not true. In the same way, the dealer must tell a buyer if the car was previously used as a rental car as a part of a company’s fleet.
Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is the federal statute that outlines how debt collectors are allowed to pursue consumers. When paired with California’s Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, these laws protect consumers against debt collection practices that are abusive, deceptive and unfair.
These laws outline the rules surrounding almost every possible interaction between a consumer and a debt collector, including addressing when consumers can be called and what can be said. For example, FDCPA states that a debt collector cannot call a consumer repeatedly. While this isn’t clearly defined, past cases have found that more than one call in the same day is harassment.
Because of statutes on both the state and federal level, collections must be handled in a very particular way. Understanding these laws and the proper way to collect on a debt is important, no matter if you are attempting to get payment for the goods and services you sold or if you owe a considerable amount of money to a creditor. Having an experienced attorney on your side is one of the best tools when it comes to collections. A well-versed lawyer can walk you through a settlement or litigation, as well as assist you with arbitration, mediation and other dispute resolution measures.
Finding a Lawyer
The Attorney Referral Service of The San Fernando Valley Bar Association can help you find a lawyer who specializes in consumer law and consumer protection. Our referrals include only highly-qualified attorneys who have extensive knowledge of state and federal consumer protection laws. If you live in San Fernando Valley or Los Angeles Metro Area and are thinking about talking with a consumer protection attorney, contact us online or give us a call at 818-340-4529.
Let us know if you’re an attorney interested in becoming a member of the SFVBA’s Attorney Referral Service.