Consumer Remedies for Civil Rights

55 Pages Posted: 21 Apr 2018 Last revised: 26 May 2019

Date Written: March 20, 2019


This Article considers whether the consumer protection doctrine offers a more promising avenue to remedying certain forms of discrimination than the antidiscrimination doctrine. Using a housing discrimination story as a case study, this Article breaks down the doctrinal trade-offs between seeking redress through a consumer protection claim and an antidiscrimination claim. This Article argues that a consumer protection claim is not only a viable avenue to remedying certain forms of discrimination but also has a higher likelihood of success than a traditional antidiscrimination claim.

Consumer protection claims might appear undesirable because they lack the important anti-subordination and group-based equality norms at the root of civil rights law. This Article argues that this is something of an illusion. Civil rights advocacy historically focused on economic citizenship, but formal civil rights doctrine came to omit economic protections. The antidiscrimination doctrine developed narrowly, constraining the reach of its remedies. Antidiscrimination statutes thus have failed to reach advocates’ aspiration for achieving group-based equality. Consumer protection law, solidly grounded in the protection of economic citizenship, is well-suited to those aspirations. Consumer protection claims therefore usefully align with and supplement the objectives of civil rights law.

Keywords: Consumer Law, Civil Rights, Consumer Protection, Housing

Suggested Citation

Elengold, Kate, Consumer Remedies for Civil Rights (March 20, 2019). 99 B.U. L. Rev. 587 (2019)., UNC Legal Studies Research Paper, Available at SSRN:

Kate Elengold (Contact Author)

UNC School of Law ( email )

Van Hecke-Wettach Hall, 160 Ridge Road
CB #3380
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3380
United States

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