June 08, 2020 Feature

Income, Equality, and Consumer Protection

Liz Coyle

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Consumer protection regulations have not created a level playing field for low- and middle-income Americans.

Consumer protection regulations have not created a level playing field for low- and middle-income Americans.

Bolkins/iStock via Getty Images

Consumer protection laws exist for the purpose of leveling the playing field in the marketplace. In reality, the significant power imbalance that permeates society virtually ensures that only certain consumers, and not the most vulnerable, receive the intended benefit of these regulations. Policy makers wrongly assume a level playing field exists when they enact “buyer beware” disclosure requirements. Laws based on open markets and marketplace competition incorrectly assume consumers will always have access to and will choose what’s in their best interest. Often, consumers get the blame for being duped when they should have known better.

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