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U.S. Ambassador to the OECD Kornbluh on the Occasion of the Consumer Policy Toolkit Roundtable, July 2010

Speaker: Karen Kornbluh, Senior Fellow for Digital Policy
Published July 21, 2010

U.S. Ambassador to the OECD Karen Kornbluh presented these remarks, "U.S. Leadership: Better Protection, Lighter Touch," to the OECD's Committee on Consumer Policy, on July 10, 2010. She explained the consumer protection toolkit, which was created to guide government policies to address unfair practices in the marketplace.

Excerpt from the speech:

We're here to talk about an initiative the U.S. championed at the OECD. To understand its importance requires an understanding of the role of the OECD.

It is an international organization the U.S. created as part of the post-WWII architecture. U.S. leaders wanted to put an end to protectionism in Europe & conditioned Marshall Plan aid on joining the OEEC; the result was a level playing field on which the US flourished.

The structure is particularly well-suited to the challenges of the 21st century. The model is modern: networked system of peer-to-peer coordination - "best practices club." It is now engaging developing countries and BRICs. And tackling 21st century problems such as innovation, skills and the internet economy.

Committee on Consumer Policy/E-Commerce Guidelines

The FTC leads the U.S. delegation to the OECD's Committee on Consumer Policy which brings together senior consumer policy specialists and law enforcers. Without doubt, it's the main international forum for discussing international consumer policy issues.

Its work is particularly relevant now given the international effects of e-commerce, m-commerce, and other technological innovation.

The OECD's E-Commerce Guidelines provide a blueprint used by many countries to develop laws, regulations, and best practices to protect consumers on-line.

Just last December, we kicked off a new chapter in this work. Along with Secretary-General Gurría, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Locke and, of course, Chairman Leibowitz, I had the pleasure of participating in a conference here at the FTC, which brought together more than 250 government officials, business leaders, consumer advocates, and academics from around the world. We examined and began to update the Guidelines in light of changes in technology, markets, and consumer preferences.

U.S. Leadership

The Consumer Policy Toolkit we are releasing today is an exciting product of U.S. engagement and leadership. It incorporates behavioral and informational economics which the U.S. is pioneering here at the FTC and around the Administration

The FTC worked in collaboration with policy makers and economists in many countries in a model of multilateral engagement. The toolkit incorporates examples from 20 countries and reflects coordinated efforts with the FTC, of course, but also consumer offices in Australia, Canada, the UK and the EU.

I call it the "Better Protected Consumers/Lighter Touch/More Growth" Toolkit.

These new tools enable policymakers to craft tools that better protect consumers with a lighter government touch because they account for the changes that have occurred in consumer markets over the past twenty years especially increasing information, choice and complexity.

The toolkit provides an innovative clear six-step framework to help policymakers decide whether or not they should intervene and if they should what is the best tailored intervention to accomplish the goal of protecting or empowering the consumer.

And these tools will empower consumers so that they can have more trust in markets and will thereby increase growth.

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