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The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Consumption and Consumer Studies by J. Michael Ryan, Daniel Thomas Cook

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Consumer Protection Agency

MARTHA W. KING

Graduate Center, City University of New York, USA

DOI: 10.1002/9781118989463.wbeccs057

Consumer protection agencies exist around the world to protect the interests of consumers. They are commonly established as the result of advocacy by consumer organizations and movements and are most generally designed to ensure the rights of consumers are acknowledged and protected. From the perspective of free market capitalists, the market should automatically protect consumer interests through competition and the balancing forces of supply and demand. But both consumer advocates and economists have argued that market imperfections or failures, such as monopolies or inadequate information, justify a range of government interventions to protect consumers. Consumer protection advocates and agencies recognize that profit seeking companies will avoid sharing information that might detract from profits but might be important for consumers to know, especially in relation to safety and health. Prime concerns of the consumer protection movement, which were subsequently taken up by protection agencies, include prices, fair trade competition, transparency, fraud, and regulation of advertisers.

US President John F. Kennedy's speech on consumer rights and his declaration of a “Consumers' Bill of Rights” in 1962 is seen as a high point in the history of consumer protection because it was the first time an elected leader had so emphatically embraced consumer rights. ...

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