Contests and Scams
Illinois has laws to protect consumers from contests and other ventures that are really nothing more than scams. Unlike other consumer protection areas, where the laws exist to protect consumers who have too little information about a product, consumer protection laws in this area exist to protect consumers from themselves and their willingness to embrace just about any get-rich-quick scheme.
Prizes. Illinois has a law called the Unsolicited Merchandise Act, which applies to those situations where unsolicited prizes are received in the mail that impose an obligation on the one receiving the prize to act in some way. Under the law, a person has the right to refuse the prize and has no obligation to return anything that wasn't solicited.
Pyramid schemes. Pyramid schemes are those that begin with the payment of money by a few people to one person, who then get others to pay them, until it eventually collapses. Those at the top make money, but the majority of people lose money. People are drawn to the scheme by the belief that they will be one of the ones near the top who will make money. Pyramid schemes are illegal in Illinois.
Telemarketing. Telemarketers are regulated in Illinois. They cannot phone anyone at any time other than 8 am. to 9 p.m. Never give your credit card number over the phone to anyone who has called you.
Sex-line calls. Illinois regulates pay-per-call telephone services, such as those that are commonly offered in late-night ads for sex-line operators. Under the Pay-Per-Call Services Consumer Protection Act, pay-per-call advertising must include certain information, such as the cost per call and the fact that callers under 12 have to be allowed 12 seconds to hang up at no charge.
Cooling-off period. One of the more important consumer protection laws in Illinois is the one that gives consumers three days to back out of certain purchases. The law applies to sales away from the place of business, which means that it covers home solicitations and sales outside of the home, such as at the mall. It also covers some home phone calls. The seller must provide his or her name, the company's name, and the product before saying anything else. The seller cannot misrepresent the true purpose of the deal or the true costs involved.