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Consumer Protection Laws: States trump Federal

One of the topics continuously covered in the Certified Information Privacy Professional surrounds the Federal Trade Commission and consumer protections for unfair or deceptive trade practices with respect to privacy.  Examples of companies changing their privacy policy without notice, not complying with the posted policy, or generally sharing information in less than best practice form results in hefty fines and additional compliance costs and paperwork for the offender.  The FTC and State Attorneys General bring these suits against the company for violation of Federal laws/rules/regulations.  

Of interest recently was Maine’s cigarette labeling law.  It is generally understood, and well documented in the CIPP references, that federal regulations define a baseline.  If a state law exists after passage of a federal act, the state law must either be struck from books, or rewritten to comply with the new legislation.  However, if the state wants to define more stringent regulations (think California and car emissions), that is their prerogative under State’s Rights.  Maine did just that protecting their state consumers with additional cigarette warning labels, and the cigarette manufacturers brought suit.  The Supreme Court upheld Maine’s consumer protection law resulting in an additional win for courageous states.

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