Consumer policy

Consumers and the crisis


The widespread recession is increasingly threatening consumer wealth. Though the crisis began in the financial sector, its impact has reached consumers worldwide. Consumers are losing their assets, incomes and ultimately confidence in the current market system.

 The OECD Committee on Consumer Policy provides guidelines to create policy and legislation to protect and empower consumers on the path towards recovery.


What are the solutions?


 The solutions lie in:

E-commerce  |  Consumer education  |  Product safety

Consumer policy toolkit  |  Corporate social responsibility


  • E-commerce: Currently, consumers are turning to e-commerce to benefit from lower prices and generate income on the Internet. Though consumer gains have been realised, the e-marketplace is evidenced by the insecurity of transactions, questions of privacy protection and the ability to resolve any problems that may arise (i.e., redress schemes). The OECD identifies ways to improve market transparency and better address issues related to fraud, dispute resolution and the security of personal information. Issues related to accountability, children, digital content, behavioural marketing and the commercial aspects of new web tools, such as Facebook, web auction sites and the like, are also covered.

Empowering E-consumers: Strengthening consumer protection in the Internet economy- An OECD Conference

  • Consumer education: Lack of consumer understanding of complex products and services on the market, is seen as one of the causes of the crisis. The OECD recognises that consumers require specific skills and knowledge in order to make well-reasoned purchasing decisions, and that governments can play an important role in developing needed skills and knowledge, through education. This is particularly important in a time of economic crisis when consumers more than ever need to be able to know how to avoid mistakes in the marketplace and confidently navigate both new and traditional markets.

Promoting Consumer Education: Trends, Policies and Good Practices- An OECD publication

  • Consumer product safety: The Committee has launched a project to identify ways that information on product safety issues could be more effectively shared internationally. With business cost savings on product safety controls becoming more prevalent during the crisis, the need for more timely exchanges of information to both protect consumers more effectively and boost their confidence in the marketplace has intensified. 

OECD Roundtable on Consumer Product Safety

  • Consumer policy toolkit: The crisis has reinforced the need for consumer agencies to understand how markets are evolving and what the implications for policy are. With markets becoming more complex, consumers are not often in a position to compare and understand products, and particularly services, well enough to make well-reasoned decisions. The recent problems in financial markets are a case in point.  The Committee is finalising work on a toolkit which will provide policymakers with a practical guide for analysing market problems and for determining when and how an agency might want to intervene to promote or protect consumer interests.  

Consumer Policy Toolkit- An OECD publication

  • Corporate social responsibility: The Committee co-organised an OECD Roundtable on Corporate Responsibility: Consumer empowerment and responsible business conduct. This roundtable focused on the responsibilities of multinational companies toward consumers and how consumers can encourage multinational enterprises to live up to the recommendations of the OECD Guidelines for multinational enterprises and help promote sustainable consumption.

Corporate Responsibility: Consumer empowerment and responsible business conduct- An OECD Roundtable 

Further OECD work on consumer issues and the crisis