COUNSEL FOR THE DECEIVED: Case Studies in Consumer Fraud by Philip Schrag

COUNSEL FOR THE DECEIVED: Case Studies in Consumer Fraud

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The counsel is author Schrag himself, a young attorney (Harvard Law '68) and first director of the Law Enforcement Division of New York City's Consumer Affairs Department. a position he was appointed to by Commissioner Bess Myerson in April 1970 and held for 15 months. Like so many recent law graduates, Schrag entered public service with the image of Nader glued on his conscience, convinced that the system not only needed reform but could get it through existing legal and legislative channels. He learned differently. The six case histories here, all based on Schrag's experience at Consumer Affairs, describe prototypical fraudulent business practices -- sensationally cheap mail order wigs paid for but not delivered, a lifetime discount scheme in which the big type giveth but the small type taketh away, exorbitant appliance repair costs, the old magazine subscription swindle, etc. But what concerns advocate Schrag more than these rapid-buck con games is the slow, circuitous, and sometimes counterproductive procedural system designed to punish and end them -- in effect, the courts ""have frustrated government agencies established to stop consumer fraud."" Gradually, spurred by this mounting frustration, Schrag began devising ""non-litigious"" strategies to halt deceptive practices; e.g., in a case involving misleading advertising in the Yellow Pages, Consumer Affairs asked the telephone company to deny the offender ad space in the future and in another instance a pending television license renewal application was used as a lever. There are obvious dangers, Schrag admits, inherent in substituting ""direct action"" for judicial process, but until the court system is genuinely reformed -- and he offers categorical recommendations -- this pattern of enforcement will probably become ""increasingly prevalent"" among activists in government. Introduced by Nader and it will appeal to his coterie.

Pub Date: June 20th, 1972
Publisher: Pantheon