Bradley Paper: The Consumer Protection Ecosystem

Christopher G. Bradley of Kentucky has written The Consumer Protection Ecosystem: Law, Norms, and Technology. Here is the abstract:

Consumer law provokes fierce policy debate on issues from identity theft to online privacy, from arbitration clauses and class action lawsuits to Americans’ accumulation of debt and the unsavory practices sometimes used to collect. Pervasive technology in every aspect of consumer transacting has opened up many new fronts in these battles. Scholars, policymakers, and advocates have responded in kind, devoting increased energy to this area of law, which affects every single one of us, every single day. Despite its prominence, however, confusion persists regarding what consumer protection really is or does. The realities of social and technological change have not been integrated into legal analyses of consumer transactions. 

This Article constructs a novel and comprehensive model of the consumer protection ecosystem by contextualizing purely legal constraints amid the other realities of commercial relationships. Drawing on scholarship in the areas of technology, social change, and the law, the model lays out three basic types of constraints on the activities of participants in consumer commercial transactions: legal, technical, and social constraints. This model provides a basis for exploring how those constraints interact and shape behavior.

The model has significant ramifications for scholars, policymakers, and advocates. The model underscores why the area of consumer-facing commerce defies one-size-fits-all solutions; instead, it demands refined and layered consideration of consumers, merchants, and the commercial relationships they pursue, as well as the changes in the social and technological contexts of those relationships. This Article’s model provides a framework for that future research and debate.


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