Research Handbooks in International Law series
Edited by Geraint Howells, Iain Ramsay, Thomas Wihelmsson and David Kraft
Chapter 18: Enforcing Consumer Protection Laws
Colin Scott 1. Introduction The implementation of consumer policy, and the vindication of consumer rights, are each dependent on the existence of mechanisms to secure alignment of the conduct of businesses with the applicable legal norms set through legislation and/or judicial decision making. In this chapter, I adopt a broad conception of enforcement so as to support an analysis and comparison of the various different mechanisms through which the entitlements and responsibilities ascribed by consumer laws may be vindicated. There are competing theories as to what consumer law should be seeking to achieve in respect of enforcement. For some, it is about justice and the tackling of inequalities, whilst for others, particularly within the law and economics approach, the law should be concerned with promoting efficient solutions within market transactions, for example by improving the flow of information on the basis of which consumers make market decisions. Whilst the pursuit of these objectives is sometimes harmonious, it is often revealing of tensions between contrasting positions as to the very purposes of consumer law. The traditional fields of law affecting consumers, such as tort and contract, and the newer consumer law measures each have associated with them, implicitly or explicitly, mechanisms for enforcing substantive legal rules. The modes and styles of enforcement of consumer protection laws are highly varied in different jurisdictions. Within many systems, the supplementing of ordinary or special private law protections for consumers (in contract and/or tort law) in the second half of the twentieth century brought with...
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