Consumer information in New Zealand : the regulation of advertising and disclosure of information relating to goods, services and associated credit
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
A competitive marketplace for goods, services and associated credit is in no small measure dependent upon the existence of adequately informed consumers. Consumers who are ignorant of the full nature, quantity and price of items sold, or credit available, in the market cannot make a rational purchasing decision. Chapter I endeavours to place the topic of consumer information in socio-economic perspective, considers the necessity for government intervention in the marketplace and outlines basic objectives of consumer protection legislation. Chapter II is devoted to business self regulation with emphasis being placed upon the codes of advertising practice. While it is recognised that self regulatory schemes exhibit considerable potential to advance the consumer interest, self regulatory codes of conduct and practice suffer through incomplete subscription to such codes and through inadequate sanctions for enforcement. This dictates that self regulation alone is not enough and that legislative intervention and control is essential. The consumer is accorded a comprehensive and diverse bundle of rights by statute and at common law and Chapter III examines the nature and extent of the consumer's remedies as against an advertiser, seller, etc. Given the dependence of substantive rights on procedural rights, it is argued that the real measure of benefit conferred lies in the ease of implementation of these rights, or otherwise. Consideration is given to small claims tribunals as important low cost forums for the settlement of disputes and to class and representative actions. Chapter IV discusses statutory control of advertising in New Zealand and liberal reference is made to the regulation of advertising in the United States where considerable development has occured in the fields of corrective advertising and advertisement substantiation. It is suggested that New Zealand could benefit by the promulgation of rules designed to achieve these ends. Furthermore, it is pointed out that control over the genus of unfair advertising is at best partial and it is suggested that the legislature take appropriate steps to remedy deficiencies in this area. The disclosure of information outside the advertising arena is examined in Chapter V and, in particular, attention is focused on the mandatory disclosure regime introduced by the Credit Contracts Act 1981 and on packaging and labelling laws. The valiant efforts of organisations such as the Consumers' Institute who disseminate much useful information relating to goods, services and credit, is discussed. In conclusion it is argued that various measures be implemented to improve the quantity and quality of information available in the New Zealand market and to this end it is proposed that a new Consumer Information Act be enacted. It is also submitted that this legislation, and other consumer protection legislation, be administered under the umbrella of a Consumer Affairs Department.