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7 J.L. & Pol. 1 (1990-1991)
Consumer Ignorance and Consumer Protection Law: Emprical Evidence from the FTC Funeral Rule

handle is hein.journals/jlp7 and id is 11 raw text is: Consumer Ignorance and Consumer Protection Law:
Empirical Evidence from the FTC Funeral Rule
Fred S. McChesney*
A child of the early Sixties, consumer protection law has matured
into a robust young adult as the Nineties arrive.' Its growth has been
nurtured by increasingly sophisticated diets of economics, in particular
the economics of information-itself born in the Sixties. Information
about goods and services is now understood to have value to consum-
ers, apart from the value of the goods and services themselves.2 Lack of
information means that consumers may make unwise purchasing deci-
* Robert T. Thompson Professor of Law and Business, Emory University School of Law,
and Professor of Economics, Emory University. A.B., Holy Cross College; J.D., University of
Miami; Ph.D., University of Virginia. The author was Associate Director for Policy and
Evaluation at the Federal Trade Commission, Bureau of Consumer Protection, when the
Funeral Rule was promulgated. This article is based on a study prepared for several funeral
trade associations participating in the Federal Trade Commission's review of the Funeral
Rule. The author thanks Fred Bates and Richard Higgins for useful comments; Jeffrey
Wharff for computational assistance; and the National Funeral Directors Association,
National Selected Morticians and the Federal Trade Commission for making available data
reported here.
I The first national consumer protection statutes were the Food and Drug Act, ch. 3915, 34
Stat. 768 (1906) (repealed by Act ofJune 25, 1938, ch. 675, § 902(a), 52 Stat. 1059), and the
Meat Inspection Act, ch. 2907, 34 Stat. 1258 (1907) (codified as amended at 21 U.S.C.
§§ 601-80 (1972)). Section 3 of the Wheeler-Lea Act of 1938, 15 U.S.C. §§ 41, 44, 45, 52-58
(1973), amended the Federal Trade Commission Act, 15 U.S.C. § 45 (1982) to outlaw unfair
and deceptive acts and practices in addition to unfair methods of competition in
commerce, and thus conferred general consumer protection authority on the federal
government. However, most current consumer protection statutes were not passed until the
early 1960s. By 1961, only 1 percent of the federal budget was spent on consumer
protection, which was the concern of small units in several federal agencies. It was at about
this time that consumerism, as the consumer protection movement is often called, was
launched as a political force. Am. Enterprise Inst., Debating Consumer Protection Policy 5
2 Stigler, The Economics of Information, 69 J. Pol. Econ. 213 (1961). Stigler won the
Nobel prize in 1982, in part for this contribution to economics. See the Official
Announcement of the Royal Academy of Sciences, The Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics
1982, 85 Scand.J. Econ. 61 (1983).

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