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3 J. Consumer Pol'y 1 (1979)

handle is hein.journals/jrncpy3 and id is 1 raw text is: Abhandlungen/Articles
David Morris and David Reeson
The Costs and Benefits of Consumer Advisory Services:
The Case of Nottinghamshire
The paper attempts to quantify the costs and benefits arising from consumer protection activity in one
area of the UK. The particular activities dealt with in detail are the provision of an agency to assist with
consumer complaints, the provision of pre-shopping advice, and the dissemination of price comparison
information. In the first case the benefits to consumers substantially outweigh the costs whilst in the last
the benefits appear to be trivial. No firm estimate is possible in the case of pre-shopping information since
this is jointly supplied and used with other services.
The recent history of consumer protection, advice, and education in the UK can
be divided into two periods, a decade of popular interest followed by a decade of
government activity. The late 1950's and early 1960's began with the founding of the
Consumers' Association in 1957 and saw the formation of the National Federation
of Consumer Groups in 1963. The late 1960's began with the passing of the Trade
Descriptions Act 1968 and the early 1970's brought the Fair Trading Act 1973 (and
with it the Office of Fair Trading, OFT) and in 1974 policy for consumer affairs in
general was brought under one body, the Department of Prices and Consumer
Protection. The major impact of this consumer movement has been to broaden the
consumer interest and widen the policies attempting to protect or advance the
consumer interest. Although the concept of the consumer interest is very difficult
to define it is now widely accepted that it is not simply confined to issues of health
and safety, reliable weights and measures, accurate product description, and enforce-
able contracts of sale. In particular the provision of information and advice is seen as
an important function of government, both central and local.
The enforcement of the Trade Descriptions Act is a function of local government
and was initially carried out by the Weights and Measures Inspectorate. Their
function in this respect was thus one of law enforcement and as such was strictly
defined by statute. However many complaints were made which, although they
arose from unfair trading practices, did not fall strictly within the terms of the Act.
Sometimes action could have been taken in other directions, for example by the
consumer for breach of contract, but such action is costly and its practical outcome
uncertain since success in the courts is not always followed by success in obtaining
redress. In some areas of the country the Weights and Measures Departments
responded to repeated requests for consumer advice by educating themselves in the
wider issues of consumer law whilst in other locations the Inspectorate restricted its
activities to fulfilment of statutory duties. Thus consumer advice was very unevenly
provided across the country and where it was provided it was done so in an
unformalised way.

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