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Editors --- "Legal Studies" [2003] AltLawJl 55; (2003) 28(4) Alternative Law Journal 187

Consumers and the law

Read the article 'Consumer Affairs - the Cinderella of government policy making' on p.182 of this issue.

I. 'The 1970s are appropriately regarded as the high water mark in Australia for the development and implementa­ tion of consumer policy. At that time the government took an activist role in leading developments on behalf of con­ sumers consistent with the emergence in the 1960s of the international Charter of Consumer Rights.' In 1962, for­ mer US President John F Kennedy declared four basic consumer rights: the right to safety; the right to be in­ formed; the right to choose; and the right to be heard. Working as a group, carefully consider what each of these rights may mean to a consumer.

a. Complete each of the following statements:

As a consumer I expect the right to safety to include ...

As a consumer I expect the right to be informed to include ...

As consumer I expect the right to choose to include ...

As a consumer I expect the right heard to include

b. Suggest ways in which you think that the law protects these rights?

Share your answers with the rest of the class. Note any points made by other groups that you have not in­ cluded in your response.

2. How do you think the following developments have impacted on consumers:

• online marketing

• credit facilities such as credit cards

• packaging

• multinational and transnational corporations.

3. Find out more about the law to protect consumers in your state or territory. Working in groups of three or four, se­ lect one of the following topics. Undertake research on the topic selected.

• consumer protection and the law

• trade practices and the law

• freedom of information and the law

• credit and the law

• privacy and the law

• tribunals and consumer complaints

Prepare a class presentation on your topic. Your class presentation should include:

• a poster or PowerPoint presentation outlining the key points discussed

• summary notes for the class

• a class activity.

4. From your reading of the article: 'Consumer Affairs - the Cinderella of government policy making' (p.182) answer the following questions:

a. List three ways in which the attitudes of the state and Commonwealth governments towards consumer protection have changed since the 1970s.

b. At a federal level there are a number of bodies responsible for consumer policy -including the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission <>, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission <>

Find out more about the role and function of each of these bodies.

c. The title to the article refers to consumer affairs as the Cinderella of government policy making. What do you think the term 'Cinderella' is implying about the government's attitude towards consumer affairs?

d. The article suggests eight areas of reform needed in the consumer interest. Draw up a chart like the one below. For each area suggested:

• briefly outline the reform

• suggest reasons why the reform may be needed.

Jules Aldous

Jules Aldous teaches legal studies at Shelford Girls Grammar

School in Melbourne and has written several legal studies text books for secondary school students.

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