BUSA+Consumer+Protection+(24) - CONSUMER PROTECTION Why...

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Why should the buyer beware? I. Overview This chapter covers the set of remedies available to a wronged or injured consumer. First, there is criminal law. Victims of consumer fraud and similar offenses have always been able to seek state- supported sanctions against wrongdoers. This venue may provide some ephemeral satisfaction for the victim and may even, at least temporarily, protect society from further harm. But criminal law does not truly make the victim whole. As a matter of fact, most of the miscreants convicted of consumer fraud are also judgment proof, i.e., they have no assets from which civil judgments can be satisfied. The second area of consumer protection is found in tort law and its permutations of intentional tort, negligence tort, and strict liability. These remedies can and do provide meaningful substance to civil correction of wrongdoing where the defendant is found to have some financial means. As seen in the prior discussions of these areas, tort law generally and products liability specifically are ripe with controversy and a great deal of uncertainty in today's legal environment. The major drawback to both the criminal law and tort law methods of consumer protection is that they represent after-the-fact remedies to harm already done. They are reactive remedies as opposed to proactive forms of prevention of harm. It has been argued that large civil judgments act as societal signals that are designed to discourage repetition of undesirable behavior. The third side to our picture is found in contract. Contract law has the advantage of providing the consumer with the opportunity to anticipate any problems before they befall him or her. This notion is traditionally found in the doctrine of caveat emptor, which courts of another age used with cavalier abandon. Both the common law of contracts and its progeny, the Uniform Commercial Code, have come a long way from the days of "Let the buyer beware." In spite of all this progress in the areas of crime, torts, and contract, the gap between consumer harm and consumer protection continues to remain unfilled. Legislators at all levels of government have sought to help fill this void with a number of consumer protection measures. These measures often incorporate elements from both civil and criminal areas of enforcement. In addition, these measures can and often do help prevent the many potential harms to the consumer. Unfortunately, another hallmark of many of these measures is that they are the end product of a trail of harm that had reached a crisis or disastrous level. Consider how long it took to take certain dangerous prescription drugs or unsafe toys off the market. Where these laws do provide a measure of safety, some consumer comfort may be found in "at least better late than never." Protection from harm has come a long way, but there is still no light at the end of the tunnel. 210
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This note was uploaded on 03/19/2008 for the course BUSA 2106 taught by Professor Lee during the Summer '07 term at UGA.

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BUSA+Consumer+Protection+(24) - CONSUMER PROTECTION Why...

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