Consumer policy

OECD Sharpens Tools to Protect Consumers


May 2014

The OECD Council recently adopted a Recommendation on approaches to tackle complex consumer problems most effectively.  “The Recommendation draws on the impressive advances made in the study of behavioural economics,” says Andrew Wyckoff, Director for Science, Technology and Industry.  “It provides a process for policy makers to identify and effectively address the behavioural biases that may be resulting in poor decisions by consumer.” Wyckoff notes that consumers are often confronted with a series of options when, for example, buying items online and sellers can cleverly set defaults in ways that add costs to purchases, knowing that most consumers will not bother to change these defaults.

The Recommendation presents a six-step framework for i) analysing problems, ii) determining whether problems are serious enough to warrant action, iii) setting policy objectives, iii) identifying and choosing the best set of policy measures to address problems, and iv) reviewing policies to determine whether they are having the intended impact.

The framework is further developed in a Consumer Policy Toolkit that was published by the OECD in 2010. “The Toolkit has been a big success and is being used widely in OECD and non-OECD countries alike,” Wyckoff points out. “Based on these experiences, a decision was made to codify and promote the work, through an OECD legal instrument.”

For further information see or contact Mr. Peter Avery of the OECD’s Directorate for Science, Technology and Innovation.


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