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How to Apply the Goals of National Consumer Protection Week to Online Shopping

As mentioned in our previous post, this week, March 1-7, is National Consumer Protection Week.  We outlined the goals of this week, along with the tools the official website offers.  In this section, ComparedForMe.com details how you can apply the goals of National Consumer Protection Week to online shopping.

Online Shopping: A Sea of Possibilities

When it comes to online shopping, the possibilities are endless.  With the simple click of a mouse, you as a consumer are led to hundreds of web pages that feature the type of product or service you are looking to purchase.  Most of these sites claim to offer the most popular and highest quality version.  Given this overwhelming number of options, how do you make a decision about which product or service to buy?

The first bit of text listed within the Consumer Info section of The National Consumer Protection Week website says the following:

“Information can help people get the most for their money, whether they are trying to stretch their paychecks, find a quick fix for a spotty credit history, or tell the difference between a real deal and a potentially fraudulent product or service.”

The keyword: information.  Being an informed online shopper can help you spend your money more wisely.  With that said, let’s explore the ways you can gather specific product and service information.

Comparison Shopping

Comparison shopping is defined as the act of comparing prices of something in advance before shopping for the best bargain.  There are specific websites, such as ComparedForMe.com, that place products and services side-by-side.  They paint an unbiased picture of each product or service, giving the consumer the key information they need to make an informed decision.  This information includes prices as well as the scope of service that each company offers.  Of course you have the option of individually researching each product on your own when comparison shopping; however, this can be a very time-intensive process, especially if you are not familiar with the industry you are researching.

Consumer Reviews

Within a lot of these comparison shopping websites is a section where users like you can post product reviews.  Here on ComparedForMe.com, we encourage you to test out the many free trials you read about.  Documenting your positive and negative experiences with any products or services can help you decide which service you ultimately would like to subscribe to.  Furthermore, posting honest consumer reviews is the type of active participation that National Consumer Protection Week advocates.  The more dialogue consumers generate through open discussion about products and services, the better educated we all become about how to spend our hard-earned money.

Spending Habits – The Changes We Need to Make

In order to fix the financial mess we are in, we must look at how we as a nation got here.  The changes we must all make are deep.  We must examine the habits that we have exercised every day; maxing out credit cards, buying the expensive cars, spending more then we make, and living outside our means.  This behavior cannot continue, as we have recently learned that the markets and our economy cannot support or sustain this way of life.

This sad reality check has proven that we as a country are a true debtor nation.  From the government down to the individual, we have issues with borrowing way more then we ever should.  Since the government borrows excessively on a regular basis, why can’t we place the blame on them?  Well, that is one way to look at it; however, the financial responsibility of every individual is on the individual.  Accountability is key here.

So what do we need to do?  Well, borrowing money to buy something you truly cannot afford is no longer an option.  Never again will Americans who cannot afford a true mortgage get a loan.  This was ridiculous in the first place.  But like our President said, in those days, reform was not a priority.  Well, not reform is a priority.  Every time you are about to make a purchase and pull out your credit card and NOT your debit card, you need to truly ask yourself, “is this something I need?  Is the reason I am using the credit card because I cannot pay cash for the item?”  If this is the case, then you should reconsider.  Many Americans took into no fax payday loans and failed to pay them back.

As Americans, we have always enjoyed the spoils of the best and the nicest things.  We have to realize the days of enjoying these things without consequence are over. It is inevitable that living outside an individual’s or a country’s means will come back to bite you.  No one will continue to supply you with loans if you only take news loans to pay off the old ones.

What is National Consumer Protection Week & How Can it Help You?

What is National Consumer Protection Week & How Can it Help You?

This week, March 1-7, 2009, is National Consumer Protection Week. This week focuses on helping consumers become more aware and more proactive about their financial situations.  It is a week-long national campaign aimed at providing intensive consumer education. These resources are provided by federal, state, and local government agencies, along with consumer advocacy organizations.

Eileen Harrington, the Director of The Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection stressed that “Practical information is one tool that retains its value, especially in tough economic times.”

In this section, ComparedForMe.com examines what the official website says this week is all about-and how its free tools can help you as a consumer make more informed financial decisions.

The National Consumer Protection Week Website (http://www.consumer.gov/ncpw/index.html) is divided into several helpful sections that are free to access.  Let’s break the website down to give you a clear idea of how the tools they offer can be applied to your own financial and business situation.

Consumer Info

  • This section of the National Consumer Protection Week website is divided into the following sub-sections: Banking, Credit, Consumer Rights, Identity Theft & Fraud, Investments, Money, and Mortgages.
  • Upon clicking on one of the above-mentioned topics, you are taken to a page that gives you the following free resources: Websites, PDF’s, and Online Articles & Tools.
  • These websites, PDF’s, and Online Articles & Tools are presented to you from an unbiased source that has one goal in mind: to arm you with educational information that will help you become more proactive in your financial decision-making.

Business Info

  • This section of the National Consumer Protection Week website is divided into the following sub-sections: Websites, Video, PDF’s, and Online Articles & Tools.
  • Within the Videos section, website visitors are given free access to a video entitled “Protecting Personal Information: A Tutorial for Business.” This is no boring PowerPoint presentation; instead, an attorney for the Federal Trade Commission appears on the screen, speaking to you and walking you through an animated informational session. The simple, “no fluff” language suggests 5 easy-to-follow steps that business owners should take to protect their personal information. A helpful question and answer dialogue is weaved throughout the video as well.
  • In the PDF’s section, the site offers a business-focused Identity Theft Toolkit, courtesy of the Federal Trade Commission.

International

  • The first section gives you access to an international directory of dispute resolution providers (www.econsumer.gov.)
  • The second part links you to The International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN) (www.icpen.org.) ICPEN is made up of governmental organizations worldwide; it oversees fair trade practice laws and encourages consumer protection.

Outreach Toolkit

  • The final section of the site offers the following tools to help your business promote its support of National Consumer Protection Week. These template are extremely user friendly-all you have to do is insert your business information and you’re good to go:

o        Sample Press Release: get your business more exposure while promoting National Consumer Protection Week
o        Sample Newsletter Article: use National Consumer Protection Week as a topic for your company newsletter
o        Sample Event Flyer: use your business to promote events in your own community that encourage consumer              awareness and protection
o        Radio Public Service Announcements:  gives you the option to listen and download them (or follow the transcript and record your own)

Actively participate in National Consumer Protection Week by visiting their website.  The tools they provide will give you a concrete action plan that will help you achieve your short and     long-term financial goals-no matter who you are!