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The Potential and Limits of Consumer Empowerment by Information

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Consumer policy increasingly places emphasis on the role of information in allowing consumers to protect themselves and promoting a competitive economy. Increasing the information available to consumers is undoubtedly beneficial, but this article cautions that the limitations of consumer protection though information also have to be recognized. In particular, emphasis is placed on the insights provided by behavioural economics which suggests that consumers may not always respond to information provided as rationally as traditional economic models sometimes assume. One implication of this is that the way information rules are framed needs to be revisited. Other consumer policy approaches (altering the default rules, using bans and regulations, and risk sharing) need to be considered alongside a strategy of information provision. To analyse which approach should be adopted or to find the appropriate balance between different approaches requires policy makers to engage more fully with the legal and consumer policy research community.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-6478.2005.00328.x

Affiliations: Law School, Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YN, England, Email: g.howells@lancaster.ac.uk

Publication date: September 1, 2005

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