National Consumer Protection Week, which this year begins on Sunday, is an annual collaboration between the government and nonprofit organizations to educate consumers about how to make informed buying decisions.
Participating government agencies include the Federal Trade Commission, the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the various bank regulators. In addition to the Better Business Bureau, nonrofit partners include AARP, the Consumer Federation of America and the National Urban League. A complete list of participants can be found on at ncpw.gov.
Click on the "Consumer Topics" tab on the website and you'll be taken to a page that links to information on a wide array of topics. They include credit and debt; mortgages; and scam and fraud alert. A section titled "Kids, Parents and Teachers" contains advice on such subjects as how to be responsible when texting and safe driving.
The website also contains valuable information for businesses. There's a link to the Federal Trade Commission's Business Center website that provides advice on complying with consumer protection laws. Another link takes you to a BBB website that educates businesses on the importance of protecting customer data and how to establish a data security plan.
Another resource to help consumers make informed buying decisions is the 2011 Consumer Action Handbook. It's a free publication from the Federal Citizen Information Center, a part of the General Services Administration. Order a copy by visiting www.usa.gov/consumer-action-handbook/order-form.shtml. You can also view it online at consumeraction.gov.
The handbook is chock-full of tips that will help you make smart buying decisions. Part I, "Be a Savvy Consumer," contains information on a wide variety of subjects, including buying a used car, selecting a physician and planning for retirement.
Part II offers advice on how to file a complaint and includes a sample complaint letter. This section describes actions that will increase the likelihood that you'll get a satisfactory resolution to your problem.
Part III contains a list of public resources and contact information. There are special sections for military personnel, persons with disabilities, and teachers looking for instructional material about credit, insurance and other consumer topics.
The final part is a "Consumer Assistance Directory" that lists contact information for corporate offices, consumer organizations, trade groups and so on.
Although there is some overlap in the two resources reviewed here, can you ever get too much good advice on how to spend your money wisely, make sound investments, maintain good health and avoid losing your hard-earned dollars to scam artists?
Randy Hutchinson is the President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of the Mid-South and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reprinted with permission from The Commercial Appeal.