Who said the only way to learn about money was to read articles on top of articles? Financial education is all around us—provided you look closely enough. Increase your awareness with the SALT™ Blog video of the week, picked fresh from YouTube.
Earlier this week, you probably heard about the fleeting glory that was “Dumb Starbucks.” Sadly, this store was not a commentary on the latte factor; rather, it was the work of Nathan Fielder—comedian, Canadian-business-school graduate, and SALT™ Blog favorite
Fielder claims parody law protected his use of the Starbucks name and logo. We’ll let the lawyers debate that, although a different law ultimately shut him down. Still, his experiment shows the steaming cup of power someone can serve just by knowing the law. And unlike this store’s mysterious origins, you likely see exactly where this is going.
Governments put laws in place to help people. Whether a specific law helps you will depend on your circumstances. However, everyone can agree that consumer protection laws serve the greater good. (Put your hands down, scam artists.) By knowing the rights these four laws provide, you’ll be able to handle “dumb” tricksters like Nathan Fielder in a smart fashion.
1. Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act
The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act requires retailers that offer written warranties to do so in a single, clear, and easy-to read document. If a retailer does not live up to the terms in that warranty, you can take legal action or file a complaint with the FTC.
The act does not require retailers to offer warranties—nor does it cover oral warranties. So, let’s say you’re buying something big, like a car, and the seller won’t put a warranty in writing. Well, you may want to buy from someone else.
This act inspired many states to adopt their own “lemon laws.” (Although not this one.)
2. Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act (CARD Act)
There’s a lot going on in the CARD Act. However, here are a couple big things you should know about: It limits the fees and penalties credit card companies can charge, and it outlines when they can increase interest rates—and by how much.
If your credit card company wants to change your card’s terms, they must notify you 45 days in advance—and give you the option to cancel that card before the changes take effect. Also, for the most part, credit card companies cannot increase your interest rate during the first year you have your card. There are, of course, exceptions to this.
3. Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)
This act does many things to help consumers, including entitling you to a free copy of your credit report from TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax (i.e., the three national consumer-reporting agencies) every 12 months. You can download each at annualcreditreport.com.
FCRA also lets you get a free copy of this report if the information in it caused someone to deny you employment, credit, or insurance. There is a time limit on that request, though: 60 days from when you received notification of denial.
4. Truth In Lending Act (TILA)
If you’re working with lenders or creditors (bank, credit card, etc.), this law makes them share specific items with you upfront:
- Your loan’s annual percentage rate (APR)
- The term of the loan
- The total costs to you
You should see this information prominently on any documents that you sign, as well as on your billing statements in some cases.
These are just a few of the laws that could help you out of a venti-sized problem. You can learn about more options on saltmoney.org or find out the next steps to take if you think you’ve been the victim of fraud.
What are some other “smart” ways you protect yourself from fraud? Let us know in the comments.
Disclaimer: This article is meant for informational purposes, and is not to be considered legal advice.