Consumer Policy Toolkit

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The markets for goods and services have undergone significant changes over the past 20 years. Regulatory reform, global markets, new technologies and growth in the role of services in economic activity have driven the changes which, in many instances, have provided significant benefits to consumers. Relatively little attention has been paid to the challenges these developments have posed for consumers. More choice and more complexity in many markets have made it increasingly difficult for them to compare and assess the value of products and services. The challenges for consumers have raised similar challenges for the government authorities responsible for protecting them from unfair commercial practices and fraud.

This book examines how markets have evolved and provides insights for improved consumer policy making. It explores, for the first time, how what we have learned through the study of behavioural economics is changing the way policy makers are addressing problems.

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Identifying and Analysing Consumer Market Problems

The purpose of this chapter is to i) define what consumer detriment is; ii) indicate how markets can be screened to detect problems where detriment may be present; and iii) provide suggestions on how market problems can be analysed and how detriment can be measured. Screening, analysis and measurement are essential parts of the policy making framework presented in Chapter 5, as they provide the basis on which decisions to introduce a policy measure should be made. They can also play an important role in helping to determine which of the policy measures described in Chapter 4 might be most effective in addressing a problem.

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