The concept of consumer defense emerged as a means to protect consumers against deceptive or unfair marketing practices. It is based on the principle that consumer protection is a collective responsibility, a duty of all involved in economic activities, including government agencies.
Consumers trust producers to provide them with products and services that meet their needs, but they also need to be able to verify the quality and safety of those goods and services. This is because the market economy depends on trust, and if producers do not fulfill their promises to consumers, consumer confidence can be shaken.
One way that governments can promote good consumer behavior is by providing more information to consumers about the quality and safety of products and services. This can include information about ingredients, nutritional content, and safety testing procedures. This can help prevent deception and fraud, and it can ensure that consumers are able to make well-informed decisions about their purchases.
Another way that governments can improve consumer protection is by regulating products and services. This can include enforcing rules against false advertising and the use of misleading sales techniques.
In the United States, for example, the Federal Trade Commission regulates consumer advertising. It can also take action against businesses that fail to disclose the health and safety risks associated with their products or services.
Aside from enforcement actions, the Commission also engages in public education campaigns to raise awareness about consumer issues and to educate the public on how to avoid scams and other forms of deception. These efforts are often coordinated with state and federal law enforcement agencies to protect consumers from deceptive sales practices.
The Commission has also facilitated international collaboration on law enforcement issues through the International Marketing Supervision Network, which involves a number of law enforcement agencies in different countries that are concerned with the same types of marketing issues. The Network’s informal nature allows participants to focus on their national law enforcement needs and resources, while still collaborating in tracking problems with cross-border transactions.
Using the Internet to Encourage Consumer Protection
As technology advances and changes how goods and services are offered and sold, governments need to be mindful of their role in promoting the best possible consumer protection. The Internet can be a powerful tool to promote consumer education and self-policing, but it also presents new opportunities for fraud and deception.
This is why governments should take a multifaceted approach to developing and implementing policies that encourage disclosures, self-regulation, and consumer education. In addition, governments should promote consumer advocacy groups and other organizations that can help consumers understand their rights and responsibilities.
A second approach to ensuring that the best possible consumer protection is achieved is to implement the results of prior research through projects that serve to implement or disseminate those recommendations, or through community outreach and other interventions. This year, we are also soliciting grant applications for a new type of research project, called an “implementation grant.”
The University of Oregon is seeking proposals for this funding opportunity to support grants that address the following areas: (1) research regarding consumer behavior or decision-making at the individual consumer level; or (2) research that tests interventions that can be used at the individual consumer level to reduce harms to consumers.