By John Breyault, Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications and Fraud
As National Consumer Protection Week 2011 draws to a close, it is appropriate to reflect on why this week is set aside to celebrate consumer protection. NCL has been at the center of the consumer movement since its inception over a century ago. A short an incomplete list of consumer protection triumphs in that time would include the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 which created the FDA, the Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914, the Fair Credit Reporting Act of 1970, the Consumer Product Safety Act of 1972, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010.
What do all of these disparate pieces of legislation share in common? They all sought to make the market safer and fairer for consumers. They all recognized that absent safeguards and prudent regulations, consumers stood little chance against the vastly greater resources of industry. During National Consumer Protection Week, we encourage consumers to take full advantage of the consumer rights gained over this century of advocacy to make better-informed marketplace decisions.
It is the desire to pass on these rights and responsibilities to the next generation that motivates NCL’s LifeSmarts program. LifeSmarts is about more than just teens memorizing esoteric consumer trivia. It’s about giving young people on the cusp of adulthood the knowledge they will need to enter life as empowered consumers. Every time that a LifeSmarts alumna uses the skills she gained from LifeSmarts to get a better deal on a mortgage, steer clear of an Internet scam or spot a safety hazard in her home, consumers win just a little bit more.
It is with this purpose in mind that we encourage LifeSmarts competitors to learn and understand their rights as American consumers. In other countries, citizens must too often accept the lot that their markets deal to them. In America, we are protected by a web of consumer protections that ensure that the water we drink is clean, that banks can’t cheat us, and that the products we buy for our children aren’t accidents waiting to happen. When these rights are violated, LifeSmarts teens know that they can speak up and seek redress. In an increasingly interconnected and global marketplace, having the knowledge and the tools to use it has never been more important.
National Consumer Protection Week ends March 12, but the lessons and responsibilities of NCPW and of LifeSmarts will last a lifetime.