Let's face it, things don't always work out the way we planned. We buy things that don't work, the price isn't what we expected or something else goes wrong. Where do you go for help? Here's a brief look.
The U.S. has a sprawling consumer protection operation divided among numerous federal agencies and the states, counties and cities. Federal regulations govern many transactions but state and local laws can vary widely from one location to another. These are some of the primary agencies:
State Attorneys General - The state AGs, along with county and city prosecutors, are the front line of consumer protection in the U.S. Their national association has a website that's loaded with information, complaint forms and directories.
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) - Established during the Obama Administration, the CFPB "makes sure banks, lenders, and other financial companies treat you fairly."
Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPC) - The CPSC regulates product safety and can ask companies to recall defective products. It can't force recalls though, except in rare instances.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) - NHTSA is basically the CPSC for cars and other vehicles. It compiles accident and defect data and can order recalls. It is notorious for being slow-moving and its processes are somewhat impenetrable to the naked eye.
U.S. Justice Department - You might not think of this as a consumer protection agency but the Justice Department often prosecutes consumer skullduggery in criminal proceedings, while most other agencies are strictly civil.
Consumer Affairs Canada - A starting point for complaint resolution, consumer protection and provincial offices. Includes a list of provincial consumer protection offices.
Canada Consumer Product Safety Act - A guide to Canada's consumer regulations.
Financial Consumer Agency of Canada - Regulates banks and other financial services, promotes financial literacy.
Canada Recalls and Safety Alerts - Cars, food, consumer and healthcare products, they're all in one place.
Consumers Association of Canada - CAC is an independent, national, not-for-profit, volunteer-based organization, informing and educating consumers and advocating on public policy issues.
Consumers Council of Canada - An independent organization that collects information about consumer public policy issues.
Mexico Consumer Protection Law - Mexico has a single consumer protection law that spells out consumers' rights and obligations in 25 situations, including clear descriptions of guarantees, the right to cancel transactions when products prove defective and the right to prompt repair service.
COFECE (Comisión Federal de Competencia Económica), or Federal Economic Competition Commission, is the competition regulator in Mexico. It is responsible for, "overseeing, promoting and guaranteeing competition and market access in Mexico for the efficient functioning of markets."
Other Consumer Resources
Product Review Sites - These sites can help you stay out of trouble and make wiser buying decisions.