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NCJ Number: 50585 Find in a Library
Title: ELDERLY CONSUMER AND FRAUD SCHEMES (FROM LAW OF THE ELDERLY, 1977, BY JONATHAN A WEISS)
Author(s): S A NEWMAN; K L STRAUS
Corporate Author: Practicing Law Institute
United States of America
Date Published: 1977
Page Count: 12
Sponsoring Agency: Practicing Law Institute
New York, NY 10019
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: SELECTED AREAS OF ELDERLY CONSUMER FRAUD -- MAIL ORDERS, LAND SALES, HEALTH PRODUCTS, HEARING AIDS, UTILITIES, AND FUNERAL SERVICES -- ARE EXAMINED. FEDERAL, STATE, AND CASE LAWS ARE CITED.
Abstract: THE MOST COMMON COMPLAINTS AGAINST MAIL ORDER FIRMS ARE (1) FAILURE TO DELIVER, (2) LATE DELIVERY, AND (3) REFUSAL TO RESOLVE OR EVEN TO ACKNOWLEDGE CONSUMER PROBLEMS. THE FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION (FTC) HAS PROMULGATED A TRADE REGULATION RULE THAT REQUIRES MAIL ORDER SELLERS TO FILL ORDERS WITHIN 30 DAYS OR REFUND CONSUMER'S MONEY. THE RULE DOES NOT PREEMPT STRICTER STATE LAWS, SUCH AS THOSE IN NEW YORK AND CALIFORNIA. THE U.S. POSTAL SERVICE ALSO MAINTAINS A MEASURE OF CONTROL OVER THE USE OF THE MAILS THROUGH A SPECIAL UNIT WHICH INVESTIGATES FRADULENT MAIL ORDER SCHEMES. OLDER AMERICANS LOOKING TOWARD RETIREMENT ARE OFTEN THE TARGET OF LAND SALES SCHEMES AND A NUMBER OF STATES HAVE INFORMATION DISCLOSURE LAWS FOR LAND SALES. VARIOUS STATE STATUTES REQUIRE SELLERS TO FILE DETAILED PROPERTY REPORTS, WHICH ARE MADE AVAILABLE TO ANY PROSPECTIVE BUYERS. SOME STATES GO BEYOND DISCLOSURE AND GIVE THE CONSUMER SIGNING A CONTRACT A SPECIFIED PERIOD FOR CANCELLATION. STATE LAWS CAN ALSO INTERFERE WITH THE ELDERLY CONSUMERS ABILITY TO SECURE A NECESSARY COMMODITY AT A COMPETITIVE PRICE, AS IS THE CASE WITH VARIOUS STATE LAWS THAT PROHIBIT THE ADVERTISING OF DRUG PRICES AND THE SUBSTITUTION OF LESS EXPENSIVE GENERIC PRESCRIPTIONS. ALSO, THE FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION HAS FOUND THAT MANY OF THE OVER-THE-COUNTER SLEEP AIDS, SEDATIVES, AND STIMULANTS COMMONLY USED BY THE PUBLIC, PARTICULARLY THE ELDERLY, ARE OF LITTLE OR NO VALUE. DEALERS IN HEARING AIDS ARE ALSO A POTENTIAL SOURCE OF FRAUD. HEARING AIDS ARE OFTEN PRESCRIBED WITHOUT NEED, AND ELDERLY CONSUMERS ARE SOMETIMES URGED TO REPLACE UNITS FREQUENTLY, OR EVEN TO PURCHASE A SECOND UNIT FOR THE OTHER EAR. A POSSIBLE SOURCE OF NONFRAUDULENT FINANCIAL TROUBLE FOR THE ELDERLY LIES IN RATE STRUCTURE AND CONTRACT REQUIREMENTS IMPOSED BY PUBLIC UTILITIES. UTILITY RATE STRUCTURES OFTEN PUT THE ELDERLY, AND OTHER LOW-VOLUME USERS LIVING ON FIXED INCOMES, AT A DISADVANTAGE, WHILE THE DEPOSIT REQUIREMENTS FURTHER BURDEN THE ELDERLY BY FORCING THEM TO PAY PERHAPS SEVERAL MONTHS WORTH OF BILLS IN ADVANCE. THE SUPREME COURT HAS REFUSED TO EXTEND DUE PROCESS CONSIDERATIONS TO THE ACTIONS OF PUBLIC UTILITIES. BECAUSE THE ELDERLY ARE PARTICULARLY SUSCEPTIBLE TO UNFAIR AND DECEPTIVE PRACTICES OF FUNERAL HOMES, THE FTC IS INITIATING A TRADE REGULATION DESIGNED TO PROTECT THEM AGAINST SUCH PRACTICES. REFERENCES ARE FOOTNOTED. (KBL)
Index Term(s): Consumer fraud; Consumer protection; Fraud; Older Adults (65+)
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