Caveat Venditor: Let the Seller Beware

Publisher:  Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPRIG), Canada
Year Published:  1977  
Pages:  24pp  
Book Type:  Handbooks/Manuals

Resource Type:  Book
Cx Number:  CX479

This Consumer's Handbook was produced by the Consumer Action Centre (CAC) which was established as a project of the Waterloo chapter of OPIRG in 1974.

Abstract:  This Consumer's Handbook was produced by the Consumer Action Centre (CAC) which was established as a project of the Waterloo chapter of OPIRG in 1974. Its functions included research and action, consumer education and representation/mediation on behalf of dissatisfied consumers. On all accounts it was a successful programme, resolving 80% of the complaints requiring staff intervention in favour of the consumer. In the summer of 1976, CAC closed because it did not get its expected grant from the Department of Consumer and Corporate Affairs. Why? Because the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber of Commerce, by applying pressure through the local member of parliament, successfully convinced the government to terminate funding.

In the Introduction the handbook explodes the myth of consumer sovereignty. The myth it argues is fabricated by corporate and government spokespersons. The corporate argument defends free enterprise with the logic that benefits necessarily accrue to the consumer as a result of the activities of competing firms and it suggests that by voting with dollars, consumers can influence corporate policy. C.A.C. on the other hand shows that the marketplace is not competitive because the economy is controlled by oligopolistic corporations. So rather than serve the consumer, corporations end up creating consumer demands to continue their reason for existing - making profit.

The government on the other hand sees its role as a neutral third party which mediates through legislation to ensure that the interest of the consumer and business coincide. C.A.C. shows historically that instead of being a third mediating party, the Canadian government responds to the loudest most powerful voices which belong to the corporate sector. Such injustice C.A.C. argues cannot be explained away as the willful intent of unscrupulous people. "Rather, it is a by-product of an economic system in which profit maximization is allowed to take precedence over the satisfaction of human needs. Consumer and economic injustice - two sides of the same coin - stem from this fundamental power imbalance - the power of corporations to make decisions while people bear the consequences.

The purpose of the handbook is to make people aware of their rights in navigating through such a marketplace. The content deals with explaining and pointing to resources to aid people in understanding and dealing with various aspects of Consumer laws and practices.
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