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When the risk is “super-obvious,” a consumer warning is unnecessary. That’s why steak knives don’t have warning labels, for example.

On the other hand, some consumer traps are not as obvious. Many Tennessee citizens get their consumer knowledge the hard way – through trial and error.

In April 2017, the United States Government, through its Technology Transformation Service of the General Services Administration, released its last Consumer Action Handbook.


You can go online to to access this free 152-page Consumer Action Handbook.  There is an English version and a Spanish version.

Citizens could previously request a printed copy of the Consumer Action Handbook from Pueblo, Colorado, but this service has been stopped.

The Handbook offers consumer advice and suggestions on resolving complaints. Its information is in the public domain and can be freely used.

Here are some quick consumer tips from the Handbook, to avoid becoming a victim:

Be wary of promises to fix your credit problems, low interest credit card offers, deals that let you skip credit card payments, work-at-home job opportunities, risk-free investments, and free travel. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

• Don’t share personal information with someone you don’t trust. Learn how to recognize fraud.

• Beware of payday and tax refund loans, which often have very high interest rates.

Read and understand any contract, legal document, or terms of service before you sign or click “I Agree”.

• Get written estimates from several contractors for home or car repairs. For a fair comparison, make sure the estimates are for the same repairs.

• Before you buy, make sure you understand the refund, return and early termination or cancellation policies, especially for services and facilities that charge monthly fees.

Don’t buy under stress. Avoid making big-ticket purchases when dealing with death, debt, and emotional duress.

Jim Hawkins is a Tennessee general practice and public interest law attorney. This column represents legal information, and is not intended to take the place of legal advice. All cases are different and need individual attention.  Consult with a private attorney of your choice to review the facts and law specific to your case. To suggest future column topics, call (615) 452-9200.

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