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Consumer Protection Resources

Updated March 4, 2014.
Prepared by Cheryl Nyberg. Updated by law librarianship interns Taryn Marks (2014) and Amy Ash (2008).


Washington State Agencies & Websites

Consumer Protection Division

Washington Attorney General

Safeguardingconsumers.JPG

  • Helps customers recover refunds, and punishes business that violate consumer protection laws
  • Teaches the public about identity theft and frequent scams
  • Assists consumers and businesses by acting as a mediator – for free
  • Enforces Washington’s Lemon law for new cars
  • Helps consumers have a voice against utility companies
  • Has information about common complaint issues, including cell phones, general credit information, car scams (leasing, repairing, and buying), contractors, email spam, identity theft, and telemarketing fraud
  • Allows consumers to file an online complaint

The Division has a Recession Survival Guide that links consumers to various help programs, including foreclosure assistance and credit counseling.

To contact the office:

  • Consumers can call the toll-free number, 1-800-551-4636; or the main office, 360-753-6200
  • Visit one of six Consumer Resource Centers around Washington state
  • Email the Division

Washington Law Help

Washington Law Help logo

Washington Law Help provides links to several different resources on its Consumer Fraud & Unfair Sales Practices page.  Most of the links are to federal government resources and give the consumer tips on how to avoid being the victim of fraud or unfair sales.  Subjects include scams against immigrants, money wire transfers, senior fraud, and work-at-home scams.

The website also provides contact information for free legal assistance and for the Foreclosure Prevention Unit, a group of volunteer attorneys who help homeowners who are in danger of foreclosure.

Access Washington

Access Washington

Access Washington is a site that helps Washington citizens connect to state government services. It offers  a page of links specific to consumer protection, including:

Each individual page then links to different resources and governmental agencies that have additional information.

Department of Financial Institutions

DFI

The Department of Financial Institutions maintains license information for financial institutions, including banks, mortgage companies, escrow agents, and check cashers. It regularly inspects the records of these institutions and also investigates consumer complaints.

Consumer resources include:


The Division of Consumer Services also provides information about a variety of quasi-legal activities, such as:

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Books on Washington State Consumer Protection

To search for books on consumer protection issues in the Gallagher Law Library, search the online catalog by keyword. A selection of the most useful sources includes the following:

  • Handling Cases under the Consumer Protection Act. WSBA CLE, 1998. KFW230.A75 H36 1998 at Classified Stacks
  • Washington Antitrust and Consumer Protection Handbook, 3d ed. WSBA, 2001. KFW231.W37 2001 at Reference Area
  • Washington Lawyers Practice Manual. Vol. 3, chapter 8 covers consumer law. KFW80.W27 1986 at Reference Area
  • Consumer Protection Law Developments. ABA Section of Antitrust Law, 2009.  Chap. 5, § 48 covers Washington State. KF1609.C655 2009 at Classified Stacks

For other CLE materials on consumer issues, search the Public Law Library of King County's catalog, which indexes chapters in Washington CLEs.  When you identify a useful title, search the Gallagher Law Library catalog to determine if a copy of the work is located here.

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Federal Agencies & Websites

Federal Trade Commission

FTC

  • Enforces federal antitrust and consumer protection laws
  • Investigates complaints and allegations
  • Negotiates consent agreements and issues administrative decisions
  • Issues rules governing unfair or deceptive practices

The website contains a wealth of consumer information and legal materials, such as:

Through the FTC’s website, you can also:

Consumer Product Safety Commission

CPSC

  • Initiates recalls of defective and dangerous products
  • Manages and investigates consumer complaints
  • Links to other agencies and organizations with jurisdiction over products and services not covered by the CPSC

The CPSC website contains a variety of information aimed at consumer protection, including:

Through the CPSC website, you can:

  • Report an unsafe product through recalls.gov
  • Search or browse for recalled products (products are sorted into specific topics, such as Babies & Kids, Sports & Recreation, Home products, etc.)
  • View criminal or civil penalties imposed on companies; search by product, company name, or year
  • Subscribe to news releases, Twitter feeds, the Recall Widget, and much more

Consumer.gov & USA.gov

Consumer.gov Usa.gov

The two sites have almost identical information, but different interfaces.  Both offer:

  • One-stop shopping for general and federal consumer information
  • Information about food, product safety, health, home and community, money, transportation, children, careers and education, technology, and related topics
  • A directory of state and local consumer agencies

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

CFPB

  • Supervises banks, credit unions, and other financial companies
  • Writes and enforces federal consumer financial protection laws
  • Monitors financial markets for risks
  • Researches consumer behavior

Legal material includes:

The CFPB also provides consumers information on:

Through the CFPB website, you can:

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Books on Federal Consumer Protection Law

To search for books on consumer protection issues in the Gallagher Law Library, search the online catalog by keyword. A selection of the most useful sources include the following:

  • Consumer Protection Law Developments.  ABA Section of Antitrust Law, 2009. KF1609.C655 2009 at Classified Stacks
  • Consumer Protection Law in a Nutshell, 3d ed., 1999. KF1610.E7 1999 at Reference Area
  • Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act: Law, Explanation and Analysis, KF974 .D63 2010 at Classified Stacks
  • Essentials of the Dodd Frank Act, available as an online e-book (UW Net ID required)
  • FTC Practice and Procedure Manual, 2007. KF1611.F83 2007 at Classified Stacks

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Legal Databases

Note: LexisNexis and Westlaw access is restricted to individual users with passwords. Neither service is available to members of the public who visit the Law Library. CCH is available to visitors to the Gallagher Law Library.

LexisNexis

In Lexis Advanced, select Browse Topics > Antitrust & Trade Law

Several topics are listed. To access a document or to search:

  • Click on a topic most relevant to your search, then click either "get topic documents" or "add this topic to the search;" do this with all relevant topics, then type in search terms in the search box at the top of the page; or
  • Click on an arrow next to a topic to select a more specific topic; or
  • Scroll down to "General Overview," click on it, then click on "get topic documents"

In Lexis Classic:  Legal > Area of Law-By Topic > Antitrust & Trade > Search FTC, DOJ, & Other Regulatory Materials

Westlaw

In Westlaw Classic, select Directory > Topical Practice Materials  > Antitrust & Trade Regulation

In WestlawNext:  Practice Areas > Antitrust  >  Administrative Decisions & Guidance

CCH

Several publications from Commerce Clearing House are available online through the link on the Law Library homepage

  • Consumer Financial Services: includes credit information and mortgage compliance information, including state tables and comprehensive information about federal and state laws dealing with credit and mortgage regulation
  • Consumer Product Safety Guide (nested under Products Liability & Safety): "A complete source for comprehensive and timely coverage of regulatory, legislative, judicial, and industry developments affecting consumer product and motor vehicle safety"
  • Products Liability Reporter and the Products Liability Desk Reference: A Fifty-State Compendium (nested under Products Liability & Safety): the first is a "comprehensive resource on state and federal judicial and legislative developments affecting the law of products liability," and the Desk Reference covers the most recent legislative and case law from each of the 50 states and D.C.
  • State Unfair Trade Practices Law and State Unfair Practices Law Smart Charts: the first provides "explanations of deceptive trade practices and consumer protection laws," as well as cases interpreting those laws; the Smart Chart puts that information in table or matrix form
  • Trade Regulation Reporter (nested under Antitrust & Trade Regulation): “includes full text and analysis of laws, rules, guidelines, government enforcement activity, and private antitrust litigation”

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General & Multistate Websites

Better Business Bureau: provides an online database of companies based on regional reports, including information on local business, a resource library, and links to complaint forms; Western Washington is in a region with Alaska and Oregon; Eastern Washington is in a region with North Idaho and Montana

Consumer Protection in the States: 50-state survey of Unfair and Deceptive Acts and Practices (UDAP) statutes

econsumer.gov:  joint effort by 28 nations to protect consumers from international and cross-border consumer fraud.  On the site you can report a complaint against a foreign company; access resources for shopping online; and link to consumer protection agencies in the 28 member nations

National Association of Consumer Advocates: an association of attorneys who represent victims of consumer fraud; it has some consumer resources; you can also find an attorney by zip code or by subject area expertise

National Consumer Law Center: a nonprofit group that advocates for consumer justice, the site has brochures by topic on a variety of consumer issues; links to a variety of websites that can help you find legal assistance; and "other useful links."

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General & Multistate Books

Search the catalog by keyword "legal research" and the name of the state.  The Law Library has legal research guides for almost every state.

The following books can also help you find additional state-specific resources:

  • Searching the Law, The States: A Selective Bibliography of State Practice Materials in the 50 States, 4th ed., KF240 .D69 2003 at Reference Office -- arranged by state, then by subject
  • State Practice Materials: Annotated Bibliographies, KF1 .S72 2002 at Reference Area


The National Consumer Law Center also produces books in the Consumer Credit and Sales Legal Practice Series, many of which include state-by-state tables and forms. Most titles are updated annually with supplements; the latest editions are located in the Reference Area. Examples of books available in the Law Library include:

  • Automobile Fraud: Odometer Tampering, Lemon Laundering, and Concealment of Salvage or Other Adverse History, 4th ed. KF2036.A8 S54 2011 at Reference Area
  • Consumer Credit Regulation: Credit Cards, Payday Loans, Auto Finance, and Other Non-mortgage Credit. KF1040.C37 2012 at Reference Area
  • Fair Debt Collection, 7th ed. KF1024.H63 2011 at Reference Area
  • Fair Credit Reporting, 8th ed. KF1040.R63 2013 at Reference Area
  • Foreclosures: Mortgage Servicing, Mortgage Modifications, and Foreclosure Defense, 4th ed. KF697.F6 R36 2012 at Reference Area
  • Repossessions, 8th ed. KF1058.C37 2013 at Reference Area
  • Student Loan Law, 4th ed. KF4235 .L66 2010 at Reference Area

Many of the NCLC books also have online companion websites, available through the Law Library catalog. Search the law library catalog by keyword "national consumer law center" in quotes and click on "full text online."  Or, to find additional NCLC books, click on "available in the library."

Nolo also publishes consumer-friendly legal guides on a variety of topic; many of the Nolo books include state-by-state charts, tables, and sample forms.  Some examples include:

  • The Foreclosure Survival Guide: Keep Your House or Walk Away with Money in Your Pocket, 2d ed. KF697.F6 E43 2009 at Classified Stacks
  • Solve Your Money Troubles: Debt, Credit, and Bankruptcy, 13th ed. KF1501.Z9 L46 2011 at Reference Area


To find additional Nolo books, search the law library catalog by keyword for Nolo.

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Blogs

In addition to the blogs published by the agencies listed above, there are several individual blogs and blawgs that either focus or touch on consumer protection issues.  Some examples include:

The American Bar Association also maintains a list of current blawgs; you can search by topic.  Consumer protection blogs are here.

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