Consumer Protection after Consumer Sovereignty

65 Pages Posted: 14 Aug 2023

See all articles by Luke Herrine

Luke Herrine

University of Alabama - School of Law

Date Written: August 3, 2023


We seem to be in the middle of a paradigm shift in consumer protection. For decades, regulators understood their mission as “preserving choice” through more effective informational remedies. In the past decade — and more decisively during the Biden Administration — a growing appreciation for the limits of consumer choice and market competition has led bureaucrats and scholars to shift toward interpreting consumers interests and thinking pragmatically about how to shape regulation to further those interests. The Article describes the change in historical context and provides a theoretical grounding for it, articulating a pluralist theory of consumer protection under the label “moral economy.” The central legal focus of the Article is the statutory authority that has grounded much of the recent regulatory activity: the prohibition on “unfair acts or practices” shared by many federal and state agencies with consumer protection jurisdiction. The descriptive and normative arguments of this Article explain why it is now at the center of the action — and why that should be welcomed.

Keywords: consumer law, consumer protection, federal trade commission, consumer financial protection bureau, law and economics, law and political economy, administrative law, contracts

Suggested Citation

Herrine, Luke, Consumer Protection after Consumer Sovereignty (August 3, 2023). U of Alabama Legal Studies Research Paper No. 4530307, Available at SSRN: or

Luke Herrine (Contact Author)

University of Alabama - School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 870382
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487
United States

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