Consumer rights became law in 1972 during President Kennedy's term in office. There are dozens of advocacy groups and organizations to help consumers who feel they've been taken advantage. However, each consumer has several responsibilities of his own to ensure the rights outlined in America's Bill of Consumer Rights.
Five consumer responsibilities include staying informed, reading and following instructions, using products and services properly, speaking out against wrongdoing and lawfully purchasing goods and services.
While consumers have the right to be informed, they must also inform themselves to the best of their abilities about product and service knowledge. Whether you are purchasing equipment for your home or receiving treatment at a hospital, you need to know what other comparable products are on the market. With this information you have a chance to choose the best product and service for your needs.
Products come with instructions, warnings and fine print. It is an important customer responsibility to read all literature that comes with the product or service you're buying. Often consumer injury, misuse and breakage happens when instructions are not followed or fine print is not read. The fine print that comes with credit card agreements and the warnings on children's toys are especially important to utilize.
In spite of reading instructions or warnings, many consumers misuse products intentionally. The intentional misuse of products is punishable by law in some cases. Household cleaning products can be used to make illegal drugs. Toys that are meant to be harmless can be turned into instruments that inflict pain. You have the responsibility to use your service and product for the use with which it was intended. There are multiple uses for many products that are perfectly legal; for example, a lint roller can also be used as a lamp shade duster.
One of the main legal rights of customers is to speak out and defend yourself when you feel a company or organization has wronged you. This is an ethical choice in the hopes of preventing other consumers from being wronged by the same business. Most companies have a complaint department you can call to contend you've been wronged. You also have the option of contacting the Better Business Bureau, which has the power to resolve customer disputes without the law and to inform a business of customer service problems.
It may seem to go without saying, but your consumer rights are void in many cases if you have not purchased a good or service legally or in the way it was intended to be purchased. This does not only apply to stealing a product off of a store shelf; it also applies to buying the good in a secondary market such as buying prescription medication from a street dealer.
Even if you've bought medication from a good friend or family member, this is an illegal way to obtain the good. If you've purchased a stolen handbag off the street, you won't be able to go to the handbag manufacturer and ask for a refund or complain about deficient construction.