Chapter 8 - The Regulation of Consumer Credit Products: Interrogating Assumptions about the Objects of Regulation

Graeme W Austin

This paper highlights the policy work behind the proposed amendments to the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act 2003 (CCCFA), which focuses on the “real life” characteristics of the objects whose lives the regulation seeks to improve and protect. The original policy work surrounding the CCCFA made the assumption that the objects of this regulation were ‘sovereign consumers’: consumers who understand the information provided to them and are in a position to freely choose between different consumer credit products. It did not focus on whether the products could be harmful.

The author suggests that regulation can be more sharply focussed and better targeted to serve its objects by challenging the underlying assumptions around the ‘sovereign consumer’. He examines other regulatory schemes whose aim it is to protect its objects from harms. These regimes require protection of the public from more than just making bad choices between the different options that the market presents. The CCCFA policy work brings to light an understanding that under this regime people are vulnerable to a greater range of harms. The author suggests that further investigation into the vulnerabilities of objects in regulatory reform may help to improve the quality and effectiveness of regulation in all areas.