5 Consumer Rights & Protections You Didn’t Know You Had

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Most people know that they have a rights to certain things: a right to a fast & speed trial, the right to an attorney, discrimination protections, and more

But did you know that you have consumer rights as well? Consumer rights protect buyers of goods, services, and/or real estate against unjust or unfair practices.

Here, our expert consumer rights lawyers detail five consumer protection laws that you probably didn’t know about:

1. Maryland’s Miscellaneous Late Fee Statute

Maryland has some specific statutes that set late fees for homeowners associations, residential rentals, and loans. 

But what about everything else? 

When no other law specifically applies (such as in the case of credit cards, car loans, etc.) the default in Maryland is generally going to be 1.5 percent interest per month on the past due balance. 

The law, Md. Code Ann., Commercial Law § 14-1315 caps late fees like this:

The greater of:
$5 / month, or
10 percent of what’s owed

For up to 3 months on a single missed payment

or

1.5 percent of the amount that’s past due 

This fee can be charged until the owed amount is paid)

These late fees can’t be charged until 15 days after a bill was sent or the payment was due.

This consumer rights law would apply to things like daycare charges, charges for a home maintenance plan, or charges from a home improvement contractor, for example.

2. The Right to Post a Review Online

Both Maryland and Federal law protect your right as a consumer to review goods or services provided to you. Maryland residents are protected by the statute that bans “nondisparagement clauses” in consumer contracts.  

Some unscrupulous businesses have tried to gag and/or silence consumers by including clauses in their contracts that ban consumers from giving negative reviews, or try to punish consumers if they do. That isn’t allowed and violates your consumer rights. 

Even if a contract states that a person cannot write a negative review, that’s not enforceable, as detailed by the law: 

“A waiver of any provision of this section is contrary to public policy and is void and unenforceable”  MD Comm L Code § 14-1325(d).

While businesses can still take legal action over false and defamatory reviews, they cannot bar consumers from writing reviews in advance.

3. The Right to Keep Unordered Merchandise

Both Maryland and Federal law prohibit businesses from sending you goods that you haven’t ordered. 

Once upon a time, it was not uncommon for businesses to mail out “samples” of their goods with a letter saying that, if you kept the goods, you had to pay for them. That isn’t allowed any more. 

In fact, Maryland’s Miscellaneous Consumer Protection statute on “Unsolicited Sending of Merchandise” says that if you receive unordered merchandise, it is “an unconditional gift” to you.

That said, you should probably be wary of unsolicited goods you receive – they’re often part of a “brushing” scam meant to trick online marketplaces into thinking a seller is doing well when it actually isn’t. 

Goods from such sellers might not be safe, and they might not work as expected. Of equal concern is that this may be an indicator of identity theft

According to the Better Business Bureau,

“The fact that someone was able to have the items sent to you as if you purchased them indicates that they probably have some of your personal information such as your name, address, and possibly, your phone number. Once the information is out there on the internet, it could be used for numerous crooked enterprises.”

4. Your Right to Unwind a Yo-Yo Car Sale

Maryland has very clear laws about yo-yo car sales. Yo-yo car sales are when you buy a car, but the dealership says the sale is “subject to financing”. 

Many car dealers will later call you back demanding that you sign a new agreement with different terms because the car’s financing has “fallen through.” 

In Maryland, the dealership has to provide you with a statutory notice of your rights if your deal depends on the dealer finding financing. They have a very short time to tell you the deal has fallen through – 4 business days. 

If the deal does fall through, they can ask you to return the car, but they also have to return any trade-in you gave them and any money you already paid them. They also generally can’t charge you for mileage or wear to the car, either.

RELATED: Car Repossession in Maryland: Automobile Repossession Deficiency Defense

5. Your Right to Truthful Information in Consumer Sales

The Maryland Consumer Protection Act prohibits a whole range of deceptive practices in relation to consumer sales, which can be summed up as requiring sale (of goods, services. and real estate) to be truthful.

This means not just that the seller is not allowed to lie about what they’re selling. It also means that they cannot lie about the circumstances surrounding the sale.

For example, it is against law for a seller to lie about the reason that goods are discounted (for example, telling you that something is part of a seasonal sale, when really it is discounted because the item was bought and returned by the buyer). 

It is also illegal for a seller to lie about the quality of its competitors’ goods to discourage you from shopping around.

Sellers are also banned from hiding material facts that they mean you to rely on – for example renting you an apartment that they know is infested with rats, by concealing the superficial evidence of the infestation when you view the apartment.

The Consumer Protection Act is a broad law that covers all kinds of transactions, so it’s likely that if you’ve been cheated in buying consumer goods or services, the Consumer Protection Act will apply.

Think Your Consumer Rights Were Violated? Contact Our Consumer Rights Lawyers for Help

These are just a few of the consumer rights that you have as a consumer in the state of Maryland and, in some cases, across the United States.

If you feel that you’ve had your consumer rights violated, don’t give up. Give us a call. The Holland Law Firm can help you fight against injustices and assert your rights as a consumer in a court of law.