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Consumer Rights: What You Need to Know

You may have come across the popular phrase “The customer is always right,” but this may not always hold true when dealing with some companies. That’s because it turns out the customer is not always right, but customers are always protected in certain areas.

These protections may vary a bit from state to state and certainly from country to country. However, as a general rule,  consumer rights are typically respected.

The Bill of Consumer Rights

As a consumer buying products or services from a company, you can expect a few core protections. When these protections fail, you are right to dip into the world of consumer advocacy and even involve government agencies and legal teams if circumstances warrant that level of assistance.

There is not a universal “bill” to protect consumer rights, but consumers are typically protected in the following areas:

  • Right to safety. Customers have a right to expect products to not harm them when used as directed.
  • Right to choice. Monopolies are prohibited in the United States for a reason.
  • Right to informed decision-making. A smart consumer reads up on or otherwise researches their purchases before spending money.
  • Rights to be heard. Contact information must be posted and monitored to discuss a consumer issue when it presents itself.
  • Right to resolution. Consumers have a reasonable right to seek resolution when their consumer rights are not honored.

Consumer Best Practices

It’s rational to expect a company to honor its customers’ rights and reasonable requests. Likewise, it is sensible for companies to expect customers to be informed and savvy consumers. That means the onus is on customers to stay informed and—most importantly—exercise their rights.

To get the most from companies, buyers should practice responsibility as well. Knowing the best consumer practices can make a significant difference in your customer satisfaction.

Research your purchases

An online review website can be a tremendous asset when researching your purchases. You have a right to an informed decision, but it’s your job to seek out the information you need. Companies have to provide some basic data, but why stop at basic when there is so much out there?

Online reviews will show you the full picture. Read expert reviews and consumer reports to gain insights on products and services. Knowing how companies work on retaining their customers can also give you valuable insight into the quality of service you might expect. Familiarize yourself with proven ways to increase CRR to understand how companies aim to keep customers satisfied.

When you purchase an item or service, hang on to the paperwork, including your receipt, any contracts, and any warranty information. Should something go wrong, you’ll have a list of documents available to aid you in your next steps.

Read directions

Your right to safety only expands as far as the proper, instructed use of an item. If you haven’t read the instructions, you aren’t following directions. Read the guidelines, and you may be surprised how initial confusion can be cleared up.

Seek more information

If you suspect an issue, don’t panic or fret. Just dig a bit deeper to understand the problem and your options for resolution. Communities of consumers and experts like the PissedConsumer Club or various websites by government and consumer protection agencies will have ample information to understand consumer issues and potential resolutions.

Contact companies for resolution

When something goes wrong, you’re going to be frustrated and angry. You do have a right to be heard by companies and a right to resolution, so approach the companies from a place of responsibility, not rage.

When you contact the company, assume that the person on the other end of the line wants to be helpful and that you are now a team working together to solve a problem. It’s not you against them; it’s the two of you against a faulty item or miscommunication.

Don’t be afraid to politely escalate issues

When things go wrong, and you can’t find a solution with the first level of customer service, you’re within your rights to politely escalate the issue and ask to speak with the next level of customer service.

You may have to contact multiple levels before you’re able to find a solution or find a person empowered by the company to solve an issue effectively. Sometimes, the lowest levels of customer service are equipped only to answer questions or handle minimal transactions.

Leave feedback

Consumer insights not only help other would-be customers, but they can guide companies as well. Leave your feedback, both positive and negative, on review websites to help others who are just beginning their research.

Consumer and Company Responsibilities

When it comes to purchases, both companies and consumers have responsibilities. Businesses have a code of ethics to follow, but you have a responsibility to make wise choices before money changes hands. While it’s easy to blame the company when a purchase goes wrong, sometimes a savvy customer knows that without research and know-how, ultimately, you tend to get what you paid for.

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