Consumer law: paternalism, fragmentation and centralised enforcement
The emergence over the last half-century of a body of law that had a sufficiently homogeneous core that it could be identified as ‘consumer law’ is one of the major developments in the law of most common law jurisdictions. Although consumer law necessarily rests on the underlying contract between the parties, the extent of legislative intervention and the aims of that legislation have increasingly carved consumer law out as a body of law distinct from the general law of contract. A law of consumer credit emerged as a distinct sub-species of this body of consumer law – distinct in the sense that granting of small loans, the financing of the purchase of consumer goods and residential mortgages were recognised as giving rise to similar issues. Consumer credit has also become more globalised. This was made plain by the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), in which the interconnectedness of the world’s financial system was laid bare. It is also apparent in the regulatory responses of individual jurisdictions which demonstrate both remarkable similarities as well as clear divergence. The chapters in this book seek to analyse the regulatory responses to the GFC and its impact on consumer law generally and consumer credit in particular in a number of different jurisdictions, primarily the United Kingdom, United States of America and Australia. In doing so, the aim is to encourage comparison and to stimulate analysis of the different approaches taken in the different jurisdictions, enabling more general conclusions to be drawn about the appropriate nature and form of regulation. In turn, these general conclusions may be used to inform policy and law making.