Consumer protection stands at the heart of retail store regulation. Various agencies from federal, state and local governments ensure controls are in place for stores that must comply with such things as age-limit laws when selling age-restricted products. All retail stores must follow the regulations established or suffer the consequences, which could lead to license loss, fines and penalties.
Several government agencies regulate retail store activity based on the products the store carries or the services provided. The Federal Trade Commission offers overall consumer protection, while the Food and Drug Administration, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agency are commonly involved in retail regulations. Other federal agencies include the United States Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency, which ensures retail stores follow environmental laws.
State Energy Departments
Individual states have standalone departments with regulatory oversight of retail merchants dealing in utilities and vehicular fuels. In most states, their energy departments regulate retailers who supply utility and telecommunication services. But individual state environmental agencies, air quality boards, tax boards, secretaries of state or other agencies might deal with licensing gasoline and oil retailers, set standards for antifreeze and oil change outlets or regulate gasoline sales. Several states also have a separate Public Utilities Commission or similar agency that specifically oversees utility companies.
State Measures and Weights Agencies
Individual states also typically have a measures and weights department that monitors these devices used by retail establishments. Such state agencies may conduct periodic tests and inspections of gas station pumps, food scales and scanners as a means of enforcing laws addressing retail sales and item pricing. Some states may combine all these duties under one large department, while states with larger populations may develop individual regulatory departments.
State Alcohol Beverage Control
In addition to federally enforced regulations on sales and handling of alcoholic beverages by retail stores, individual states also have regulatory agencies with responsibility for licensing in this market segment. This agency is often known across multiple states as the Alcoholic Beverages Control department or commission. State regulatory agencies dealing with retail alcoholic beverages stores usually monitor manufacturing, storing and transportation of alcoholic beverages. They also provide oversight on direct sales and enforce age laws for alcoholic beverage sales. They may also exercise authority with reference to quality control of alcoholic beverage products.
Local parishes, city or county government agencies establish the rules on where businesses can locate by designating land-use maps zoned for retail sales. Along with these controls, local government agencies, such as the treasurer's office, the health department, the county clerk or recorder also issue business licenses, manage health inspections for retail food preparation and regulate retail taxes at the local level.
A writer/editor since 1984, Christine Lebednik has spent much of her career in business and technical writing, and editing. Her consumer print and online articles include product descriptions for TDMonthly Online, book reviews for Catholic News Service, consumer reports for Consumer Search and works for various other publications. Lebednik received her Bachelor of Arts in English from Salem State College.