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Consumer education and information rights in financial services

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Due to the increasing complexity of financial services, many consumers are not able to manage their finance in an appropriate way. This is one of the many causes (others are mainly unemployment, illness etc.) of the growing social problem of over-indebtedness. Therefore financial education is becoming more and more important and, under the name financial literacy, is actually getting on the political agenda. There are several initiatives--mainly of not-for-profit organisations--to improve the financial knowledge of consumers. These are mainly concentrated on debt advice and social credit initiatives, whereas general financial education programmes only exist in some of the member states of the European Union, like for example in the UK and in the United States.

This article raises the question of whether law can contribute to financial education. Besides absolute consumer protections law (e.g. on extortionate credit, betting and gambling) one instrument of legislation is statutory information rights. European Directives often use statutory information as a means of consumer protection. The effect of these rights on information is questionable. This article analyses whether statutory rights to information contribute to the education of a consumer in relation to financial products and if they are a means of combating over-indebtedness. The article aims to show the advantages and weaknesses of statutory information.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Institute for Financial Services, Hamburg, Germany. udo.reifner@iff-hamburg.de

Publication date: 2003-06-01

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