When you hear about “consumer protection”, do you think about working adults trying to responsibly spend and save their income? Well think again! Teen consumers are just as important as adult consumers, if not more. Teens make a huge contribution to Washington’s economy, and in 2006 it was recorded that nationwide teens spent $179 billion. That’s more than what some Third World countries spend as a whole. Now are you re-thinking about who the major consumers really are these days?
Major companies are already well-aware of this, and have taken advantage of this opportunity. And how is this a great opportunity? Well, teens with part-time jobs have an average of $104 per week of disposable income. Most teens live at home with their parents, and are free of paying off home mortgages, electricity and water bills, and other responsibilities. Although teens are saving, teens are also avidly spending. Generally, most of their money goes towards clothes, mp3 players, athletic equipment and cell phones. On a more expensive scale though, teens are also buying cars for their first time, purchasing laptops for school, opening their first bank accounts, renting an apartment for the first time, and obtaining new credit cards. All of these leave opportunity for consumer fraud, especially because teens are far more susceptible to it. Being a college student myself, I know that at this age it is a prime time to learn how to handle personal finances. The downside of this though is that teens are making lots of mistakes, and are very vulnerable.
There is, of course, an easy solution to this -- be aware! If you are a teen or a parent, it is important to read up as much as you can on consumer protection and advice on how to avoid fraud. Being a student, it might be a pain to have to read one more thing in addition to all of your other work. Consumer education though can be just as important as math and history, as it can help protect you and your finances later in the future.
Here on our AGO site we have a Consumer Tips for Teens page, as well as a Consumer Protection for Teens Web site run by teens themselves. There are also a variety of other helpful sites online such as Consumer Reports and support for teen workers.
Now that teen consumers are now being seen as a priority target, it's time to educate ourselves!