Consumer protection law and criminal law have both received considerable analysis from academic lawyers. The role of legal intervention with the aim of protecting the consumer has come in for scrutiny in a number of seminal works, many of which concentrate upon the role of consumer law in the marketplace. The role of criminal law has also been discussed by a large number of leading commentators, with particular attention being paid to the boundaries of criminal sanctions, and particular concern being addressed to increasing criminalisation. Against this background, it is surprising that so little has been written about the role of criminal sanctions in the protection of the consumer. The criminal law has been the prime technique used by successive post-war governments to implement consumer policy in the UK. Intervention in the civil law to protect the consumer has been less frequent, although a number of important examples of this exist. Strict liability regulatory offences, tempered by statutory defences, remain the paradigm of UK consumer protection law.
This book aims to be the first major monograph to examine the role of criminal sanctions in the protection of the consumer. Although focusing on the UK, much of the analysis in this work is relevant wherever matters of consumer policy are being considered. The book provides a critique of regulatory consumer law, by examining the objectives of consumer policy, the role of criminal law in society, and the extent to which consumer protection is an appropriate topic with which criminal law can deal. The book seeks to achieve its aims in the following ways. First, it investigates the justification for having consumer protection laws, and considers the regulatory techniques available to fulfil consumer policy objectives. Although much of the traditional analysis of consumer protection law has focused on its economic role in correcting market failure, it will be argued that the social objectives of consumer law should be given greater attention. Secondly, the book examines the role, and the use, of criminal law in society, with particular reference to the concept of the regulatory offence. There has been considerable concern from liberal criminal justice scholars at what is perceived as over-criminalisation in general, and it is