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Consumer Law Tutorial

Consumer Law Tutorial for Judges in New Mexico

What is Consumer Law?

A “consumer” is an individual who purchases goods for personal use from a business.  New Mexico law specifically defines a “consumer” as “an individual who enters into a transaction primarily for personal, family or household purposes.”  §55-1-201(11).  (Note that for this tutorial, New Mexico statutes will be cited in a concise yet understandable manner, without reference to “NMSA 1978.”)  Consumers are also known as “buyers,” and that term will also be used throughout this tutorial as a way to refer to a consumer.

When a consumer enters into a transaction with a seller, each party to the transaction has certain rights and obligations.  Simply put, the consumer is entitled to goods that are in keeping with the seller’s representations and the consumer’s reasonable expectations.  The seller is entitled to timely payment for those goods.  However, within that seemingly simple “give-and-take,” there are many possible variations that may bring the consumer and seller into court.  When that occurs, the court must apply consumer law in order to define the rights and obligations of the parties to the transaction and to decide which of the parties’ expectations in the transaction are enforceable under the law.  The courts are guided in reviewing consumer issues by general principles of contract and tort law, as well as by federal and state statutes, cases, and regulations that specifically deal with business transactions.

The Uniform Commercial Code (hereinafter “the UCC”), located in chapter 55 of the New Mexico Statutes, was drafted to simplify and modernize the law on commercial transactions.  Much of the statutory law that applies to those types of transactions will be found in the UCC.   The UCC must be liberally construed and applied to further its underlying purposes and policies of simplifying, clarifying and modernizing the law governing commercial transactions, permitting the continued expansion of commercial practices through custom, usage and agreement of the parties, and making uniform the law among the various jurisdictions.  §55-1-103(a)(1)(2)(3).

The most common consumer claims or counterclaims in New Mexico courts are those which allege warranty violations, misrepresentations, unfair, deceptive, or unconscionable trade practices, mandatory disclosure violations, and challenges to repossession or other debt collection practices.  This tutorial provides information on these basic consumer law issues, followed by short practice exercises for each topic discussed.  The exercises can be accessed by clicking on the links found at the bottom of each page.