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Empowerment of Whom and for What? Financial Literacy Education and the New Regulation of Consumer Financial Services

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Financial regulators in many states recently have obtained statutory mandates to enhance consumer financial literacy. This paper investigates the development of policy pursuant to such mandates in the UK and Canada to identify how national regulators represent the role of the literate consumer in the financial market place. It finds that regulators in both countries represent financial education as empowering consumers but that each embeds in its policy an implicit normative ordering of responsible consumer behavior. The paper relates the tension between empowerment and responsibilization aspects of literacy enhancement to policy goals of expanding financial markets and assisting financial regulators to manage consumers’ expectations of protection. It raises questions about regulators’ use of consumer education to responsibilize consumption of financial products and calls for further research on the international growth of financial literacy education as a regulatory project.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Osgoode Hall Law School, York University and Chair-Elect at Kent Law School, University of Kent in the UK

Publication date: 01 April 2007

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