Consumer law is a subspecialty of contract law. A consumer is a person who buys a product or service. Issues arise in day-to-day life over whether a contract existed. And, if a contract did exist, was that contract broken?
Special Consumer Laws
The sales types listed below have a history of consumer abuse. Therefore, special consumer laws have been put in place to protect consumers from potentially abusive or high pressure sales situations.
- Door to Door Sales – door to door sales require written notice of a three day cooling off period, during which you can cancel the purchase without penalty.
- Mail – a mail order company must send your order within 30 days unless you were informed when you placed the order that the item back order, out of stock or out of season. You have a right to cancel your order.
- Telemarketing – the National Do Not Call Registry prevents telemarketers from contacting you if you are registered; register at (www.donotcall.gov) or by a toll-free number (888-382-1222.)
- Pets – some states have specific protection for consumers buying pets such as the requirement of health history disclosure or lemon laws; if your state doesn’t have such specific laws, you can recover under a legal theory of general warranty.
- Funeral Homes – the federal Funeral Rule requires funeral homes to give pricing information over the phone; funeral homes must disclose what expenses are legally required and which are optional.
- Travel – if you pay for a hotel room ahead of time, it must be available to you; otherwise, reservations are a courtesy. Shocking to most people, prepaid tickets are not a guarantee for a seat on a particular flight. The ticket is simply a contract for the airline to get you from one place to another. If you get bumped, the airline is required by law to provide a written explanation of your rights such as financial compensation or overnight accommodations.
- Home Repairs – Read the written paperwork that a home repairman provides; it will outline your rights to rescind a contract within a 3 day cooling off period. It’s in your best interest to hire a home repairman from a referral and not the yellow pages.
A contract is an agreement which two or more adults enter into voluntarily to act or not act that is legally enforceable. There must be an exchange of consideration. This means that each party must either give or give up something.
For instance, Sandra and Karen agreed that Karen would pay Sandra $100 to bake 10 dozen cookies for an event. This creates a contract.
Contracts can be oral, however, it is in the best interest of both parties to have a contract in writing because it’s much easier to enforce.
Breach of Contract
A breach of contract occurs when any of the parties to a contract fails to perform as agreed. In the example above, if Sandra bakes the cookies and Karen refuses to pay her the $100, Karen is in breach of contract.
Breach of Contract Remedies
A legal remedy is a means to restore the injured party back to where he or she would have been but for the breach of contract. In keeping with our example, the court would make Karen pay Sandra the $100.
Had it been Sandra who breached the contract and Karen hired someone else to bake the cookies for $150 Sandra would have to pay Karen the $50 difference.