Expanding Local Enforcement of State and Federal Consumer Protection Laws

By Morris, Kathleen S. | Fordham Urban Law Journal, October 2013 | Go to article overview

Expanding Local Enforcement of State and Federal Consumer Protection Laws


Morris, Kathleen S., Fordham Urban Law Journal


ABSTRACT

This Article calls on Congress and the state legislatures to grant large cities and counties standing to enforce the Federal Trade Commission Act (the FTC Act) and its state statutory counterparts (or little Acts). The FTC Act, a federal law, prohibits businesses from engaging in any "unlawful, "unfair," or "deceptive" acts or practices, and the little Acts apply similarly broad prohibitions in all fifty states. This fifty-one-statute consumer protection regime--which has been the law of the land for several decades--carries enormous promise to halt a wide range of unlawful and harmful corporate practices in their earliest stages. Unfortunately, that promise has not been fulfilled because these laws are chronically under-enforced. At present, only one federal agency--the Federal Trade Commission--has broad standing to enforce the FTC Act; while state Attorneys General and consumers typically have standing to enforce the little Acts, they cannot keep up with the rate of corporate malfeasance. This Article argues that the nation's legislatures should invite cities and counties with populations over 50,000 into consumer protection enforcement by granting them standing to seek injunctive relief and penalties under the FTC Act and little Acts. It addresses the practical benefits and barriers to disaggregating consumer protection enforcement in this way and discusses the attendant localism and federalism concerns.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction
  I. The Current Consumer Protection Enforcement Regime and
       Its Limitations
      A. The FTC Act
      B. The Little Acts
      C. Barriers to Local Legislation
      D. Barriers to Private Enforcement Actions
      E. Why Consider Local (Rather than Additional State or
         Federal) Consumer Protection Enforcement?
 II. Expanding Local Enforcement of State and Federal
     Consumer Protection Laws
     A. Municipal Right of Action Under FTC Act
     B. Municipal Right of Action Under the Little Acts
     C. Practical Barriers to Local Consumer Protection
        Enforcement
        1. Politics
        2. Money
        3. Culture
        4. Sophistication
III. Theoretical Concerns Disaggregation Raises
     A. Localism Concerns: What About Local Autonomy?
     B. Federalism Concerns: Uniformity, Over-Enforcement,
        and Parochialism
Conclusion
Appendix

INTRODUCTION

The nation's consumer protection regime is broken. (1) The problem is not a lack of good law: federal and state legislatures have enacted far-reaching consumer protection statutes, most notably the expansive Federal Trade Commission Act (the FTC Act or the Act) (2) and its state statutory counterparts (the little Acts). (3) The problem is that due to insufficient funding and staffing, (4) industry capture, (5) or some combination of both, (6) these potentially powerful bodies of consumer protection law are woefully under-enforced. (7)

At present, the FTC Act is enforced almost exclusively by the FTC itself. (8) The Act does not provide for a private right of action or public rights of action by state or local governments (unlike, for example, the Clean Air Act). (9) Furthermore, among the fifty little Acts, only seven permit city and county enforcement, (10) and only eleven permit district attorney enforcement. (11) This paper calls for Congress and the state legislatures to extend consumer protection enforcement standing to cities and counties with populations over 50,000. (12)

For several decades, scholars and policy experts have pointed out the enormous gaps in consumer protection enforcement, and called for a more effective approach. Nearly half a century ago, Ralph Nader's book Unsafe at Any Speed spurred broad efforts to protect consumers. (13) Ten years after Mr. Nader published his book, Ann Marie Tracey pointed out that "[c]onsumer laws are not self-executing," and called for local criminal prosecution of consumer rights violations. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Expanding Local Enforcement of State and Federal Consumer Protection Laws
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.