Thriving on Adversity: Disclosing Corporate Mistreatment of Consumers Caught in Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and Exploring the Consumer Movement's Response to Crisis and Catastrophe
45 Pages Posted: 30 Mar 2006 Last revised: 21 May 2020
Date Written: March 5, 2010
Over the last year it has been unexceptional to watch the consumer coverage of problems related to the natural disasters created by the hurricanes. Outside of the Southern states, the national media and leaders of other consumer organizations spent a very large amount of time warning the immediate victims of the storm about construction scammers and con artists; and warning the wider public about flood-damaged cars and charity frauds. But compared to some other real, authentically grave consumer problems connected with the hurricanes, these are neither the only, nor the dominant narratives that leaders of the consumer movement should be focusing on. Many of the institutional leaders of the movement have concentrated on fringe bad actors - at a time when there are problems of greater cumulative significance exploding out of mainstream commercial behavior.
By criterion that I think most would consider important - the aggregate impact of the practice in question on general consumer welfare and the aggregate impact on consumers' loss of home, health, employment, purchasing power and leisure time enjoyment - the serious consumer problems connected with natural disasters relate not to charity scams and fly-by-night construction companies, but to the insufficiently compassionate responses of mortgagees, banks, credit card issuers, and utilities. With only a few exceptions, however, the behavior of major commercial actors, especially in the financial sector has not been comprehensively illuminated. This discussion examines the mainstream housing, banking, lending, and selected basic utilities sectors to learn more about the increased costs and burdens that commercial entities have imposed on consumers, in the aftermath of the hurricanes, and more generally to reveal the unique possibilities for public education and reform which arise during times of natural disaster.
Keywords: Consumer movement, mortgage lender, credit card issuer, eviction, hurricane, Katrina, mortgagee, bankruptcy, predatory lending, deferred payment, credit card, utilities
JEL Classification: D10, D11, D18, D19, G20, G21, G28, G29, H31, I31
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation