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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 75680 Find in a Library
Title: Access to Justice for Consumers - A Perspective From Common Law Countries
Journal: Journal of Consumer Policy  Issue:3-4  Dated:(1979)  Pages:291-299
Author(s): R Cranston
Date Published: 1979
Page Count: 9
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: West Germany (Former)
Annotation: Techniques suggested by the access-to-justice movement in the United States, Britain, Australia, and Canada to assure consumer protection are evaluated.
Abstract: Class action suits brought in the name of a number of parties with similar claims only exist in the United States. Although they have met with considerable success, the size of the group whose interests are represented has recently been limited to assure group homogeneity. Such suits are not likely to ever be adopted in England but have sparked interest in both Canada and Australia. However, the impact of the suits is expected to differ in those countries from the impact in the United States. Small claims courts have become especially popular in the last half century in all the countries under consideration. However, such courts have proved somewhat disappointing, as they have frequently been used by businesses as a cheap avenue of debt collection. Small claims courts are most effective when kept inexpensive and limited to use by individual consumers. In addition, civil compensation by businesses convicted of consumer protection offenses to consumers suffering losses are possible. However, this procedure has proved of limited value because it requires a prosecution to be instituted, it only applies to criminal malpractice, and it requires that claims be presented by consumer protection departments, which prefer to leave such action up to the consumers. Finally, action by consumer organizations and agencies are not frequently used in these countries because such organizations cannot afford to become heavily involved in litigation without Government support. Independent agencies acting as consumer advocates and bringing mass restitution suits have been more effective. Individuals promoting access to justice for consumers cannot assume that courts are capable of furthering consumers' interests. Courts are primarily concerned with settling particular disputes on a case-by-case basis and operating within political constraints. Thus, courts can only plan a supplementary role in consumer protection, and consumers should look to political action to protect their interests. Footnotes and 13 references are supplied. A summary of the article in German is also provided.
Index Term(s): Australia; Canada; Class action lawsuits; Consumer protection; Court system; Great Britain/United Kingdom; Public interest advocacy; Small claims courts; United States of America; Victim compensation
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http://www.ncjrs.gov/App/publications/abstract.aspx?ID=75680

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